World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones has warned the Wallabies that fans will tune out if they take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Fullback Dane Haylett-Petty raised the prospect on Wednesday when he said the Wallabies would consider making the silent protest, possibly even before Saturday week’s third Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Sydney.
The Wallabies will be wearing a specially-designed Indigenous jersey for that match, as well as against Argentina later in the Tri Nations series.
“Sport has a lot of opportunity to join conversations and have a say and a lot of sports have done that,” Haylett-Petty said. “I can’t speak for everyone but it would be a great show of support. I think that would be a discussion to have as a group and we’d definitely consider it.”
But several sports teams taking a knee in the NBA, and elsewhere around the world, have sparked more violent scenes since the death of George Ford while being arrested in the US in May.
The Wallabies would be the first national sporting team from Australia to take a knee, but Farr-Jones on Thursday cautioned against it.
“To take the risk of basically splitting the support the Wallabies are starting to earn through their gutsy performances in Wellington and Auckland – just don’t do it guys, it’s too risky,” Farr-Jones said on radio 2GB.
“You run the risk that a few [viewers] would just turn off. They don’t want to see politics in national sport. That’s a real risk. I think it could be divisive.”
Farr-Jones revealed the Wallabies once observed a minute’s silence on a tour to South Africa during his 63-Test career that ended in 1993.
“I don’t think here in Australia that we have a major issue in relation to discrimination of coloured people,” he said. “We went to South Africa in ’92 when it was opening up, when apartheid was just about behind it.
“Of course [Nelson] Mandela was elected the first black president in ’94. We had a minute silence for victims of township violence before we played our Test match in Cape Town.
“But here in Australia, I think if you surveyed your listeners, I think 99% would agree that all lives matter. We don’t have that issue. Let’s not make it a political issue in a sporting event.”