Peter FitzSimons has slammed the Wallabies over their decision not to take a knee during the national anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said the idea was discussed in their team camp in the NSW Hunter Valley and the team voted against becoming the first Australian team to do so.
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The Wallabies will wear a First Nations jersey against New Zealand on October 31 in Sydney, with Dane Haylett-Petty asked this week whether taking a knee was something the Wallabies would consider doing on home soil.
The veteran fullback said his belief was that it would “be a great thing for us to do” and that the player group would discuss it.
But Wallabies great Nick Farr-Jones said the team shouldn’t, describing it as a “divisive move”.
“To take the risk of basically splitting the support the Wallabies are starting to earn through their gutsy performances in Wellington and Auckland - just don't do it guys, it's too risky,” Farr-Jones said on radio 2GB.
“You run the risk that a few (viewers) would just turn off. They don't want to see politics in national sport. That's a real risk. I think it could be divisive.”
But writing for the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, former Wallabies player FitzSimons said the team had made a “bad mistake”.
“Saying you ‘don‘t want to make a political statement’ and so won’t take a knee, is a political statement,” he said.
“It will be seen by many as ‘we are a bunch of privileged private school types, and we don‘t get it’.
“What is the point of having an indigenous round, and wearing an indigenous jersey, if you don't get to base level of showing respect for the indigenous struggle?
“Is all of the jersey stuff just a showbiz and marketing exercise, but when the rubber hits the road you are not actually there? This is a bad mistake, and you blokes should rethink it. Those who want to take a knee should take a knee.”
Dave Rennie defends decision not to kneel
Rennie knocked the idea on the head during a teleconference on Friday.
“The key thing is that this is about honouring our Indigenous people and we want the focus to be on that,” he said.
“Everyone has got their own opinions around the other situation but we want the focus to be around reflecting on our history and our past.
“Our focus is around the First Nations people and the Indigenous jersey; we're not looking to make a political statement.”
He said the coaching and management group talked with the team leaders, who then met with the rest of the team and it was a “unanimous decision”.
Rennie said the group wanted to see the Indigenous part of the Australian culture represented in the regular gold Wallabies jersey, not just as a one-off.
“What we're trying to highlight is that First Nations is part of our DNA and that needs to be reflected and that needs to be each game not just one or two times a year,” he added.
“We think having that reflected on our Test jersey every week is really important.”
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