Two Indigenous Australian former players have urged NRL players to follow the example of NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who has been refusing to stand for the US National Anthem prior to games.
Larry Corowa and Joe Williams, two well-known Indigenous Australian players, believe Kaepernick has done a very good thing, and feel that something similar in Australia would help to shed more light on the way that the country has treated its indigenous population.
“I applaud Kaepernick for what he has done and I know he’s copped a lot of flak for it,” said former South Sydney star Williams, according to Rugby League Week.
“Imagine if a couple of guys did it on grand final day – what a powerful message it would send to white Australia.
“It would bring all the racism that’s in the closet to the surface – the racism we have to put up with every day. The way we are treated in shops, the way people look at us on the street and the way the government treats us.
“It’s time it stopped. And our footballers are role models and the ideal ones to bring about change.
“They need to take a stance. They are only footballers for a short time, but they are black men till the day they die.”
Corowa, who received an MBE for services to sport in 1980, agrees with Williams, and feel a similar gesture from NRL players would be a brave thing to do.
“It’s time to send a powerful message to our government, which has not been effective enough in closing the gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” he said.
“And all it would take is one player to do it on Grand Final day.
“I wish someone would have the courage to do it – it would be something to see.
“Imagine if someone with the respect of Johnathan Thurston did it – what a powerful statement that would make.”
Williams refused to stand for the Australian National Anthem on Australia Day in Wagga, after being named Citizen of the Year for his work on suicide prevention.
He raised a few hackles with his gesture, but has no regrets.
“They wanted me to give the award back because I was being disrespectful,” Williams said.
“But I wasn’t being disrespectful – I was respecting my ancestors who were raped and murdered by white Australians.
“People tell me it was a courageous thing to do but I say no, it was just a moral choice.”