Sponsorships questioned by leading Australian athletes

Oct 18, 2022, 5:55 AM | Updated: 5:57 pm

Australia's Pat Cummins, left, celebrates with teammate after the dismissal of India's captain Rohi...

Australia's Pat Cummins, left, celebrates with teammate after the dismissal of India's captain Rohit Sharma during the third T20 cricket match between India and Australia, in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A)

(AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A)

              FILE - Australia's Tim Paine, left, talks with bowler Pat Cummins during play on day three of the fourth cricket test between India and Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, on Jan. 17, 2021. Paine made a return to first-class cricket, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, for the first time in 18 months since he quit as test skipper after after a scandal involving explicit text messages he sent to a co-worker in 2017. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard, File)
              Australia's Pat Cummins, left, celebrates with teammate after the dismissal of India's captain Rohit Sharma during the third T20 cricket match between India and Australia, in Hyderabad, India, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A)

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

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

Athletes have openly called out injustices and sportswashing by some governments and regimes.

This week national cricket captain Pat Cummins had no hesitation in calling for more climate-conscious corporate partners for his sport. A recent pay agreement between the players’ union and Cricket Australia allows players to decline to endorse certain brands on “reasonable personal or reasonable professional grounds.”

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

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

Cricket Australia acknowledged that it had agreed to end a deal worth almost 40 million Australian dollars ($25 million), but said it was because of “a change in its brand strategy” by the energy company.

“CA confirms that at no point did any conversation between men’s team captain Pat Cummins and CA CEO Nick Hockley influence Alinta’s decision to finish its sponsorship with Cricket Australia in June 2023,” Cricket Australia said in a statement.

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

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

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

The sport’s national governing body is working to reach a compromise with Indigenous player Donnell Wallam after re-affirming its sponsorship deal with mining company Hancock Prospecting.

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

Wallam took issue with Hancock Prospecting’s record on Indigenous matters, which date to Rinehart’s late father Lang Hancock. He proposed in a 1984 television interview that some Indigenous people be given contaminated water so they could be sterilized and “breed themselves out.”

Wallam, who later this month is expected to become the first Indigenous player to represent the Australian Diamonds in more than 20 years, was reluctant to wear the new sponsor’s logo. She was considering seeking an exemption, as other athletes have done when a sponsor doesn’t align with their beliefs or religion, however the issue raised national attention when her teammates opted to stand with her.

Both Netball Australia and national team captain Liz Watson have voiced their support for Hancock Prospecting, with the deal securing the future of the sports organization which sustained heavy losses over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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

“We’re supporting 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 stance.

“Sport is already feeling the impact of climate change with extreme heat, bushfire smoke and flooding leading to cancellations and delays of matches as well as player and spectator welfare issues,” Pocock said.

And the movement is growing. A group of high-profile fans from the Fremantle Dockers Australian Football League team as well as former Fremantle star Dale Kickett have called on the club to dump oil and gas giant Woodside Energy as its major sponsor.

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

“We should not allow our club’s good name to be used by a corporation to enhance its reputation when its core activities are so clearly threatening our planet,” they said.


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

Sponsorships questioned by leading Australian athletes