Controversial former footy star Sam Newman has been branded “disgusting” and the “absolute worst” following his wild rant over Indigenous Australians were honoured during last week’s AFL grand final.
The AFL included an official Welcome to Country by Uncle Colin Hunter Jr. as pre-game proceedings began as well as an Acknowledgement of Country by MC and Seven commentator Hamish McLachlan.
The day also featured a tribute to celebrated late actor, musician, activist and Elder Uncle Jack Charles.
Uncle Jack was a prominent figure on NITV’s Yokayi Footy and was the voice of the 2022 AFL Finals ad campaign. He died aged 79 earlier this month.
The proceedings appeared to bother Newman, a former Geelong player, who blasted the league for the display, calling the grand final “the Indigenous show of just nonsense”.
In his You Cannot Be Serious podcast, Newman branded the Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country “virtuous, patronising nonsense”.
He also questioned why the day included a tribute to Uncle Jack, reading an article that suggested he was a “heroin addict and a felon”.
CEO of activist group GetUp! and Widjabul Wia-bul woman from the Bundjalung Nations, Larissa Baldwin, said Newman’s comments were horrible but unsurprising.
“Sam Newman’s comments are disgusting, no media outlet should give them the airtime to be honest, but they’re not surprising – they’re representative of an epidemic of structural racism not just within the AFL but within this country,” she told news.com.au.
Ms Baldwin said First Nations payers, their families and young Indigenous children everywhere “deserve better than this”.
“That’s what Uncle Jack Charles was and continues to be. People for generations to come will remember Uncle Jack, his contributions, and his legacy,” she said.
“I think the AFL needs to focus on addressing racism experienced by the First Nations Players.”
Newman’s comments have also sparked fury online, with social media users calling him out for his controversial take.
One outraged social media user branded the former AFL player a “complete and utter waste of oxygen”, while another said he was the “absolute worst”.
“There’s a point to Sam Newman? If the point was that the welcome to country ceremonies are OTT, I wholeheartedly disagree,” another person wrote on Twitter.
“If the point was that Uncle Jack shouldn’t have been eulogised because of past indiscretions, my point about Carey stands.”
One person added: “Sam Newman proving once again that ugliness goes to the soul of some people”.
On his podcast episode, Newman claimed the AFL Grand Final day was “marred” by “patronising nonsense about us welcoming the original landowners to this country”.
“Absolutely we admire and we respect and we give thanks to the traditional land owners for where the game is to be played and we acknowledge that,” he said.
“But the virtuous, patronising nonsense that the AFL go on with. A patronising campaign to foster this feigned indignation to divert from their own paranoid white privilege – all they do is drive a wedge between the footballing public, yet we see through it.
“We had a man with a beard came out and told us … about where the boundaries of all the various tribes and things go. Just an absolute propaganda chat about nothing.
“And then, if that wasn’t enough … then the CEO’s brother gave us welcome to country.”
Newman then took aim at the tribute for Uncle Jack.
“They did a eulogy to an Indigenous man called Uncle Jack, who I believe didn’t play football at all,” he said.
“Why would you have to actually give him a eulogy at the grand final. For what reason? It’s sheer projection to its patronising nonsense.
“We had three references to Indigenous people. Good on ‘em, but I mean how many times did they have to fall over themselves to show that we’re being woke, we’re enlightened – we don’t have to be told that.”
He continued to read out the New York Times obituary about Uncle Jack.
“I don’t know why the New York Times got into this … now I’m just reading this out: ‘Jack Charles is one of Australia’s leading Indigenous activists and who’s been the grandfather of Aboriginal theatre, but whose heroin addiction and penchant for burglary landed him in jail throughout his life, died’.
“So I don’t care what he’s done, I just want to know why he’s occupied any space or any time at the grand final.”
The New York Times obituary was widely slammed, with some accusing the publication of “racial profiling”.
Uncle Jack was a member of the Stolen Generation and grew up in Box Hill Boys Home.
He battled drug addiction and homelessness throughout his life, including periods in jail but channelled his experiences into art.
But Newman had no time for Uncle Jack, claiming former footballer Wayne Carey had more reason to be honoured at the match, despite his recent “white powder” scandal which saw him lose his role at Channel 7 and Triple M.
“If he was a heroin addict and if he was a felon, where would that leave someone like Wayne Carey?” Newman said.
“Wayne Carey, who has been ostracised from every AFL job, from every broadcasting commitment – a job that he’s had – because he was found with some crushed-up antidepressants in a nightclub.
“So he gets railroaded. He actually played football Wayne Carey … he’s been a great commentator and he’s been completely thrown under the bus and yet Uncle Jack Charles – good on him. And I see he’s getting a state funeral. Good on him.”
Newman added he didn’t have any personal grudge against Uncle Jack but labelled the tributes as “virtuous crap”.
“How many times do we have to be told … they should be honestly ashamed of themselves because all they’re doing is, they’re not uniting people, they’re driving a wedge between the footballing public,” Newman finished.
“They then had a non-binary band at half time – good on ya … if people think that’s good then fair enough. So they covered that base.”
Australian non-binary star drummer and singer G-Flip featured in the halftime show.