'Why do this': Disbelief over new Sam Newman comments

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
On the left, Nicky Winmar in retirement and on the right during his St Kilda playing days.
Nicky Winmar's iconic photo is a powerful symbol for Indigenous stars. Pic: Getty/AFL

When it comes to Indigenous imagery in Australian sport, the iconic photo of AFL great Nicky Winmar pointing to his bare stomach is a powerful piece of symbolism.

St Kilda legend Winmar became synonymous with the fight against racism when he was photographed lifting up his guernsey and proudly highlighting the colour of his skin in response to relentless abuse from Collingwood fans at Victoria Park in 1993.

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It was a moment captured by photographer Wayne Ludbey that to this day serves as a poignant reminder of the racism Indigenous players like Eddie Betts still endure to this day.

Winmar's gesture resonated so deeply that he was immortalised in bronze with a statue of the incident at Perth's Optus Stadium last year.

It also serves as an important reminder at a time when the Black Lives Movement has touched so many people of all races, religions and colours - all around the world.

However, fresh from his split with Channel Nine after making disparaging remarks about George Floyd - the African-American man whose death in police custody sparked protests around the world - Sam Newman has attempted to downplay the significance of Winmar's gesture.

In the latest episode of his podcast You Cannot Be Serious, the outspoken AFL identity and ex-Hawthorn player Don Scott both questioned whether Winmar's powerful image had anything to do with racism at all.

Newman and Scott both claim that rather than being a reference to his skin colour, Winmar was pointing to his stomach to symbolise the gutsy performance from his side.

“Maybe Nicky’s dining out on it now about lifting his jumper because I reported on that game at Collingwood,” Scott said.

"St Kilda played Collingwood and my recollection was that St Kilda won and Nicky lifted his jumper saying, ‘That was a gutsy effort. We have got heart’. Now it’s been misconstrued.”

Newman said the image had been opportunistically pounced on by activists to use as a powerful message in the fight against racism.

“Well done. And then it just morphed into all that other by activists,” Newman said.

Caroline Wilson takes aim at Newman’s comments

Veteran AFL reporter Caroline Wilson has hit out at the comments, questioning why now of all times, that Newman would feel the need to offer such an explosive take on the story.

Wilson also hit out at the suggestion from Newman and Scott that Winmar has for years been lying about the meaning of the image.

“The impression you get from listening to that podcast is that Nicky Winmar has been dishonest since about what he was saying, Wilson said on 3AW radio.

Pictured right, AFL journalist Caroline Wilson and footy identity Sam Newman.
Caroline Wilson has slammed Sam Newman's comments about the iconic Nicky Winmar photo. Pic: Instagram/Ch9

“I remember the photographer (Ludbey) saying that he heard Nicky Winmar say, and I’m not going to quote him, ‘I’m black and I’m proud of it’ … something like that.

“That was the story that the Sunday Age reported. Nicky lifting the jumper, what Wayne heard and what Nicky said.

“That is what Wayne Ludbey heard and I remember him saying it, it’s what the Sunday Age reported and this dog-whistling from Sam Newman that he just continues to do... I’m disappointed, Don Scott might have remembered that, but I know this has really upset a lot of senior Indigenous AFL people.”

Wilson said she finds it baffling that Newman and Scott would question the key protagonists in this particular story, at a time when racial equality is being demanded by citizens around the world.

“Sam would call it political correctness that I’m even saying this, but I’m just staggered that everybody remembers what Wayne Ludbey reported, said, heard. What Nicky said afterwards.

“Why? Why would you do this at a time when people are feeling so vulnerable across Australia and many Indigenous people too.

“I just don’t understand it.”