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Three double faults can cost a player a game; three double standards can cost all of us

Updated: Mar 21

A spoiler warning: the following comments are not designed to offend. Please read in the cause of commentary not controversy.

Sometimes things do happen in threes. Recently, we have seen three social/political/sporting controversies/reactions. Each tells us much about the current zeitgeist.

“You stupid white bastard”

These are the words allegedly spoken to an English policeman by Australia’s female soccer captain, the much celebrated Sam Kerr. The NSW Premier, Chris Minns, has said there was nothing offensive in Kerr’s alleged comments: “I’ve been called worse.” Foreign Affairs Minister, Penny Wong, said the comments should not detract from her “wonderful on field performances.”  I thought the Prime Minister’s comment that the “loss of the Voice referendum was not a loss for me” would remain unsurpassed in the disingenuous stakes, but now we have worthy contenders.


What would have been the reaction of Minns and Wong if a male white player had hurled a racial epithet at a coloured police officer ? I suspect they would have demanded every sort of Human Rights enquiry and associated education programmes to correct the outrage. There has been a loss of objectivity in so much public discourse.  Wong’s innate sympathy for the achievements of Kerr has clouded her judgement.  Case no.2 proves my point.


And have we all become too precious? One is reminded of the much reported famous outburst in Bob Hawke’s Cabinet room in the early 1990s. When Paul Keating lost his argument to privatise all of Telecom, he is reported to have stormed out of the room in a fit of pique, complete with the snapping of a pencil. Victorian Cabinet Minister, Robert Ray, provocatively quipped, “Sore loser, Paul?.” To which Keating allegedly replied “ Shut up you stupid fat Indian.” Back then, we all moved on….


You “c….sucker”

In another reminder of how sport in Australia has become a significant barometer of our actual and expected social mores, four-time AFL Premiership coach, Alastair Clarkson has been fined $20,000.00. His offence was to call a player from a rival team a “c….sucker” after the player deliberately charged at should height into one of Clarkson’s charges during a practice match. The illegal bump left the player concussed. Outside of the football field such a charge would have been an assault occasioning bodily harm.  Clarkson, a recidivist ‘hothead’ admits that he lacks self-restraint. Yet how many of us would not have resorted to an immediate coarse and direct condemnation of a person who assaults a known innocent ?

Yesterday morning I  walked past an indigenous woman speaking loudly on her mobile phone. I could not help but hear her comment “oh he’s such a pissant c…..sucker”. Should I have asked her to attend the same “Pride in Sport” awareness lessons that Clarkson has been ordered to undertake?


When an inclusive celebration becomes a parade of ignorance

Last weekend’s Sydney Mardi Gras became a focus of controversy when its organising committee asked the police force not to participate in the parade in response to the alleged shooting of a  male gay couple by a police officer with a police weapon. Memo to the organising community: the alleged killer was gay.  The accused murderer committed a vile crime of passion. His occupation was irrelevant to his perverted motive. 

If the accused had not been a policeman, would he not have killed his object of passion ? I doubt it.  It is equally irrelevant to suggest that somehow Sam Kerr is being unfairly treated because she is gay, or worse still that her differences somehow exonerate her alleged behaviour.

The night before Mardi Gras, a cultural centre, QTOPIA, was opened to celebrate the contribution of the LGBTIQA+ community in Sydney. Symbolically, it is housed in a former police station in inner-city Darlinghurst. It was the arrest of male gays in 1978 at that station that led to the protest marches that metamorphosed into the celebrations of contemporary Mardi Gras.

How bizarre that the organising committee were prepared to ignore such important signposts of greater tolerance. The ability of the ‘inclusive and diversity’ collective to impugn everyone considered hostile to their cause is breathtaking. 

Ultimately,  a compromise was reached where police officers were allowed to march, provided they did not wear their uniform. Another memo to the organising committee: your despised police force were able to investigate and charge a person in relation to the crime within four days.

If one considers the cultural indifference of the police force to solving gay hate crimes of 30-40 years ago, as epitomised by the case of Scott Johnson, there is much to celebrate.

No one expects cultural mores and values to remain paralysed.

Sometimes people are legitimately held to account for their misunderstanding and/or misreading of what they are expected to do.

Last week, the Headmaster of Cranbrook School, a prestigious private boys’ school in Sydney, resigned after a tumultuous week. On the Monday a current affairs programme, Four Corners, alleged that the Headmaster had presided over a school which had developed a culture of discriminatory treatment against female staff and that he had failed to act properly in response to allegations of sexual abuse against students.

The programme detailed the Headmaster’s reactions to similar cultural problems and allegations at previous schools in Australia and England where he had been Headmaster and Master.

In response to the programme’s critique, the School’s Council issued a statement of support for the Headmaster. By Friday, further allegations against him had been confirmed. It was revealed that he had continued to employ a member of Cranbrook’s staff, and had promoted him, knowing that this staff member had sent sexually suggestive emails to a student at a previous school. The Headmaster did not consider this behaviour to be “reportable conduct.”

The disclosure of these e-mails broke many backs. The Headmaster immediately offered his resignation.

For mine, the Headmaster appears to be someone whom, for whatever reasons, did not comprehend his responsibilities and the zero-tolerance approach to matters of student welfare that the community rightly expects. In the end, he recognised his failures.

Funnily enough, no recent Federal Minister of Education has offered to resign over the nation’s declining standards of learning.

Let us never forget that there is nuance and context in all things. In the Four Corners programme Cranbrook’s Deputy Headmaster was criticised for his response to a complaint made by a young female employee about inappropriate suggestions made to her by one of her students.

The Deputy Head in a meeting with the staff member was reported to have commented that it was inevitable in an all-boys school that female staff members will attract the interest of boys for many reasons. The programme depicted the comment as one that exonerated the offensive behaviour of the students and displayed inherent sexism. 

I am not so sure. It was a practical observation from an experienced educator.  When I was told in my first year of teaching to always meet with female students in an open classroom, and with other staff present, I was grateful for the reminder. I did not take umbrage at any implied suggestion that all young white male staff members were possibly predatory.  When visiting a foreign country, either actual or metaphorical, one is fortunate to receive advice about cultural behaviours and norms. Why are so many in rush to think the worst of others?

One is reminded of the observations of Cicero, who dared all to be wise:

“Men decide far more problems by hate, love lust, rage, sorrow, joy, hope, fear, illusion or some other inward emotion than by reality, authority, any legal standard, judicial precedent or statute.”

The calm reflection of the stoics seems to be needed more than ever.

The moment does not seem propitious.

An American corporation, Nvidia, has announced that it has now has a market capitalisation value of $3 trillion dollars, which is the combined capital value of all listed Australian companies! What product makes this corporation such a behemoth? Nvidia are the world’s supreme producer of computer chips associated with gaming and Artificial Intelligence products, high performance computing, and robotics.

Is the West fiddling and gaming while it burns? It certainly seems distracted by increasingly vituperative battles about pronouns, titles, identities and sensibilities. All this at a time when the world has the greatest ever number of refugees. How millions of people would give everything to live in countries like Australia where its increasingly maligned democracy still provides the opportunity for such debates take place.

In tennis news, the American ‘spring swing’ of tournaments is about to commence. Alex de Minaur has warmed up by winning his second successive title in Mexico.

Nadal has confirmed that injury will prevent him playing at Indian Wells this week. With every successive withdrawal the inevitability of the French Open being Nadal’s farewell title grows.

Another French Open Champion, Simona Halep, will be able to compete at this year’s tournament after her penalty for drug taking was dramatically reduced by the Court of Arbitration of Sport.

Easter approaches and its celebrations are not immune from the cost of living crisis. More effective than a sugar tax, flooding rains in West Africa have led to a worldwide shortage of cocoa. Hence, Easter Day’s traditional treats will be more ‘eggspensive.’


No doubt, Donald Trump is convinced that his sweep of recent ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries is the emphatic announcement of his messianic second coming and the possibility of a second term in office. Biden’s attempt to portray himself as the necessary saviour in his State of Union address was hardly convincing. Seven out of ten Americans wish that what looms as the inevitable November contest between Biden and Trump did not take place.

In a land of voluntary voting, how worrying it is that the world’s ‘greatest democracy’ will decide its leadership on the basis of which flawed candidate generates the least disinterest.

As tomorrow's Oscars loom, one of the great film lines seems more apt than ever:

“Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

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