Anthony Mundine has hit out at billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart after offering his support to Australia's netball players over the $15 million sponsorship furore.
Netball Australia was rocked by news over the weekend that Rinehart's company, Hancock Prospecting, had withdrawn its $15 million sponsorship agreement with the cash-strapped organisation.
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The move came after a standoff between Netball Australia and Diamonds players, who expressed concerns about wearing the company's branding on their uniforms.
Those concerns stemmed from West Australian Indigenous player Donnell Wallam, who is set to debut this week against England, taking exception to the company's record on Indigenous matters dating back 40 years to comments by Rinehart's late father, Lang Hancock.
Hancock Prospecting is owned by Gina Rinehart, daughter of the company's founder, Lang, who suggested in the 1980s that Indigenous people should "breed themselves out" in coming years.
Wallam's teammates had supported her concerns and initial requests not to wear the company's logo on her uniform during the three-Test England series, before the sponsorship deal was sensationally pulled on Saturday.
The bombshell move came despite reports Wallam had eventually agreed to wear the logo on her uniform, once again plunging Netball Australia into financial uncertainty and scrambling for a new backer.
Mundine has applauded Australia's netball players for standing up to their convictions and those of Wallam, while hitting out at Rinehart for not speaking out against her late father's problematic views on Indigenous Australians.
“Anyone that thinks like him (Lang Hancock), speaks like him, believes what he believes, is detrimental to humankind,” Mundine told the Herald Sun.
“Donnell (Wallam) should stay strong and stay staunch in her beliefs.
“She (Gina Rinehart) could have apologised for her father’s comments, distanced herself from them and told us that she doesn’t believe those things. Instead, she pulled her money out.”
In spite of the financial turmoil Netball Australia once again finds itself in, Mundine says there are a lot of people around the country that stand by the players.
However, he warned the Diamonds that there are also many around the country who will use the controversy to try and divide the Aussie playing group.
“All the netballers, they need to be staunch and stick behind Donnell, because they’re going to try to turn them against her.
“I just hope that Donnell knows that there are a lot more people behind her than what she may think. She has taken a strong stand, an important stand, and that shows the courage of her convictions.”
Critics take aim at Netball Australia over saga
Several critics have already spoken pit against Australia's netball players, with popular South Australian radio host Andrew “Cosi” Costello claiming they "spat in the face" of Rinehart's generous sponsorship offer.
Indigenous senator Jacinta Price - who is a member of the Country Liberal party - also claimed Netball Australia needed to "grow a spine and stop pandering to self righteous individuals".
“You make your bed, you lie in it. Unless you’ve got a cool few million in your back pocket to support yoursporting code, your woke sense of self importance should be your private opinion and your private opinion only,” she wrote on Facebook.
“Sporting codes, corporates and society in general need to grow a spine and stop pandering to self righteous individuals on the basis saying ‘No’ to their selfish demands just might attract accusations of racism or bigotry.
“Wake up Australia! Stop acting like brainless sheeple and get on with the job, whatever job that may be. Stop creating a rod for your backs and the backs of others especially our children. Stop empowering bullies and demonstrate what it means to be a real person. Clearly self flagellation isn’t working.”
Rinehart has not commented on the controversy or her late father's comments personally, with Hancock suggesting in a statement that politics should be separated from sport.
“Hancock and its executive chairman Mrs Rinehart consider that it is unnecessary for sports organisations to be used as the vehicle for social or political causes," the company said.
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