Scott Morrison and Karl Stefanovic are among those to slam Cricket Australia over their decision to drop the term ‘Australia Day’ for this weekend’s Big Bash matches.
CA announced on Wednesday night that three Big Bash clubs will wear Indigenous jerseys and the term ‘Australia Day’ will be dropped from promotions in a bid to normalise conversations over the date’s history.
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Instead the day will simply be referred to as January 26th.
The Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades will all wear their special strips in matches on January 23, 25 and 26.
The moves form part of several recommendations by the sport’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, with three games to be played on January 26.
“They thought it was pretty important to not remove cultural elements we have celebrated all season on a day like that,” Cricket Australia's diversity & inclusion manager Adam Cassidy told AAP.
“Obviously it’s a bit of a challenge when you have matches being played on a day of mourning for a lot of people.”
However Today Show host Stefanovic has led the outrage over the controversial move, labelling it “gutless and appalling”.
“I think this is disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful,” he said on Thursday morning.
“Can Cricket Australia read the room more badly. This is supposed to be Australia’s day.
“However flawed it is, however much debate surrounds it, however it should be changed, it’s not Cricket Australia’s decision to make.
“Cricket Australia has taken it upon itself to rub it out from Australia’s history. I think this is gutless and appalling.”
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) January 20, 2021
Senator Jacqui Lambie agreed, saying: “I’m not sure what they think it’s going to achieve but it’s not going to achieve anything about closing the gap.
“How bloody ungrateful are these people making these decisions on the cricket board. We’ve got much bigger things to worry about this year.”
However journalist Sarah Le Marquand said the reality was everyone will soon follow suit.
“I’m sorry to inform the two of you that it is inevitable that Australia Day will shift,” she said.
“Within 5-10 years we will no longer celebrate it as our national holiday on January 26.”
Later on Thursday Prime Minister Morrison also expressed his shock at the change.
“A bit more focus on cricket and a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” Mr Morrison told Rockhampton radio 4RO on Thursday.
“I think that's pretty ordinary.”
Players support Cricket Australia’s move
CA said they are well aware the issue is a sensitive one and are desperate for it not to prove divisive, but want to encourage talk about the issue.
“When you are a business operating under a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, it does come with responsibility and accountability to lead on key reconciliation issues,” Cassidy said.
“In an ideal world what we're trying to do is create a safe and inclusive environment for everybody.”
Indigenous jerseys have been worn across different sports for some time, but it is the first time they will be used over the Australia Day period.
The move has been firmly approved by the game’s players, with Sydney Thunder's Brendan Doggett championing the cause through his own Indigenous history.
“I hate conflict. So I am of the opinion if we can all merge forward together that's ideal,” Doggett said.
“The way we're going to do that is by starting conversations and talking about it and acknowledging the history of what's happened.
“If we wear the kit and hopefully even start one conversation then that is a win.”
The Thunder have long referred to the public holiday as the January long weekend and have been a leader in multicultural initiatives through the Thunder Cup.
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