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Sponsorships questioned by Australia’s top athletes

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Athletes from two of Australia’s most popular sports — cricket and netball — are criticizing the millions of dollars in sponsorship from mining and energy companies.

Much of this involves environmental concerns. In another case of athletes speaking out, an Indigenous netball player questioned the sponsorship of a mining company because of racist comments made in the 1980s by its founder about Indigenous people in Australia.

Athletes openly denounced the injustices and washing of sports by certain governments and regimes.

This week, national cricket captain Pat Cummins didn’t hesitate to bring in more climate-conscious corporate partners for his sport. A recent pay deal between the players’ union and Cricket Australia allows players to refuse to endorse certain brands for “reasonable personal or professional reasons”.

“Not just us players, but every organization has a responsibility to do what’s good for the sport, but also what they think is the right thing for the organization,” Cummins said. “I hope society when it moves forward is a balance where you make decisions about who you are going to welcome into the cricketing family.”

Cummins previously raised concerns with CA chief executive Nick Hockley that Cricket Australia sponsor Alinta Energy’s parent company, Pioneer Sail Holdings, has been listed as one of the largest emitters of carbon from Australia.

Cricket Australia admitted it had agreed to end a deal worth nearly A$40 million ($25 million), but said it was due to “a change in its brand strategy” by the energy company.

“CA confirms that at no time did a conversation between Men’s Team Captain Pat Cummins and CA CEO Nick Hockley influence Alinta’s decision to end his sponsorship with Cricket Australia in June 2023,” Cricket Australia said in a statement.

The problem took five years to prepare. A clause has been added to the players’ current memorandum of understanding with Cricket Australia, signed in 2017, after objections were first raised by Usman Khawaja and Fawad Ahmed almost a decade ago over the wearing of uniforms emblazoned with alcohol logos based on their Muslim faith. At the center of the controversy was the logo of a beer company on a uniform when Fawad made his debut for Australia.

“I think it’s always been a balancing act,” Cummins told Australian media when he confirmed he wouldn’t appear in the energy company’s future TV ads. “We’ve seen some players make decisions based on religion, or maybe certain foods they eat, they won’t partner with specific partners, but we really thank all of our partners for everything they do. make.”

Netball is the most popular team sport for women and girls across Australia, played on a court similar to basketball but with seven players on each team and more restrictive rules.

The sport’s national governing body is struggling to reach a compromise with Indigenous player Donnell Wallam after he reaffirmed his sponsorship deal with mining company Hancock Prospecting.

Wallam, a Noongar woman from Western Australia state who now plays for the Queensland Firebirds in the top-flight domestic league, has raised concerns about Netball Australia’s AU$15million sponsorship on four years ($9.5 million) with billionaire Gina Rinehart’s company.

Wallam took issue with Hancock Prospecting’s record on Indigenous issues, which dates from Rinehart’s late father, Lang Hancock. He proposed in a 1984 television interview that some indigenous peoples would be given contaminated water so that they could be sterilized and “breed”.

Wallam, who is expected to become the first Indigenous player to represent the Australian Diamonds in over 20 years later this month, was hesitant to wear the sponsor’s new logo. She considered seeking a bye, as other athletes have done when a sponsor doesn’t align with their beliefs or religion, but the issue drew national attention when her teammates chose to stand by her sides.

Netball Australia and national team captain Liz Watson have expressed their support for Hancock Prospecting as the deal secures the future of the sports organization which has suffered heavy losses over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As players, we know Hancock is a great investment for our program,” Watson told the Australian Associated Press.

But Watson said they also wanted to show their support for their teammate.

“We support her cultural sensitivities around the program, around the partnership, and we want her to be herself and feel comfortable and strong,” Watson said.

Newly elected independent senator and former Australian rugby captain David Pocock, who has partnered with Cummins on climate change initiatives, backed the cricket captain’s position.

“Sport is already feeling the impact of climate change with extreme heat, smoke from bushfires and flooding leading to match cancellations and delays as well as welfare issues for players and spectators,” said Pocock.

And the movement is gaining momentum. A group of high-profile fans of Fremantle Dockers Australian Football League team as well as former Fremantle star Dale Kickett have called on the club to get rid of oil and gas giant Woodside Energy as title sponsor.

In an open letter to the Dockers board and chairman Dale Alcock, the signatories said it was no longer appropriate for a fossil fuel company to sponsor the club as the world battles climate change.

“We should not allow our club’s good reputation to be used by any company to enhance its reputation when its core business so clearly threatens our planet,” they said.

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