An Aboriginal boxer competing on behalf of Australia who also maintains clear allegiances to his people has gotten into some hot water for his visible display of the latter at the summer Olympic Games in London this week. In what is perhaps an ironically telling comment on the state of that country’s effort at Settler/Aboriginal reconciliation, it appears Damien Hooper is the one who’s been made to say ‘sorry.’
“wearing a black T-shirt bearing the Aboriginal flag as he arrived for his impressive opening fight win against American Marcus Browne. It went against Australian team rules, which state athletes must only wear the official team uniform.”
Under those rules, essentially a carbon-copy of Olympic rules, that act of pride simultaneously constituted an act of politics.
Pressured by the Australian Olympic Committee (itself reportedly pressured by the International Olympic Committee), Hooper soon apologized for the flag flap. But if the 20-year-old athlete is contrite for what he did, the reasons why he did it tell a different story. Or so one is encouraged to wonder by his initial response:
“I’m Aboriginal, I’m representing my culture, not only my country but all my people as well. That’s what I wanted to do and I’m happy I did it.”
So, what to make of all this? In her provocative piece, “On the Olympics & Being Indigenous,” Leanne Simpson asserts that
“[E]very aspect of the Olympics is political… they reflect the politics of both the ruling nation-states of the world and corporations. You can wear a shirt with Canada on it. You can wear shoes with Adidas on them. That’s fine, because it’s ‘not political.’ Unless of course you’re Indigenous and these corporations and nation states are causing never-ending harm, destruction and trauma to your land and your people.”
For her part, Simpson says Hooper “should be proud [of what he did] … He took a risk in the biggest sporting event of his life to tell those Old Ones that he remembered.”
What do you think? Take a moment to vote in our poll and/or leave a comment below.
UPDATE: Realizing there was no poll option for someone who thought Hooper should not have backed down, come what may, I have added another way to vote, namely, “No: Hopper should have stood his ground, even if it meant his immediate removal from Australia’s Olympic team”