A billionaire is withdrawing support for an Australian netball team in a controversy over racist comments from nearly 40 years ago. Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest woman and the owner of Hancock Prospecting, provided an almost $9 million lifeline to the sport. However, she pulled the plug after the Australian Diamonds players decided not to wear her mining company’s logo in support of Indigenous player Donnell Wallam.
Wallam is a Noongar woman, a sect of aboriginal Australians who usually live in southwestern Australia. Wallam is an up-and-coming star who is only the third Indigenous netball player to represent Australia. The player expressed her uneasiness about wearing the Hancock logo due to comments Rinehart’s father made about Australia’s First Nations people during a televised interview in 1984.
The elder Hancock said he’d “dope the water up so they were sterile and breed themselves out,” reminding the world of the racist attitudes held toward Australia’s Indigenous people. Gina Rinehart has attempted to erase her father’s sentiments by promoting her support of Aboriginal communities through mining royalties and charities. However, she has never publicly repudiated her father’s statements.
Netball is similar to basketball, although the rules, equipment, and team numbers differ. There is no dribbling, no running with the ball, seven players, and the ball is passed within 3 seconds. The ball and basket are slightly smaller; no backboard; players are designated to certain areas. Netball has similarities to European handball, korfball, and ultimate Frisbee.
Netball has the following advantages: actual team sport with no ball hogs. Additionally, the size or ability level of a position on the court doesn’t matter to participants. However, excellent hand-eye coordination is a plus, and the game teaches spacial awareness; the game is a great feeder sport for basketball.
— Ben Pennings (@BenPennings) October 25, 2022
The Diamonds are digging their heels in with their support of their teammate Wallam’s position, rallying around her audaciously. Last week, when the team ran onto the court to play New Zealand in the Constellation Cup, they wore their old uniforms without the Hancock logo.
However, Rinehart and Hancock Prospecting clarified that there wasn’t a requirement for the Diamonds to wear the logo on their uniforms during the New Zealand games, so they did not refuse to wear it. In a statement from Hancock’s majority-owned mining company, Roy Hill, the corporation also pulled its support of state netball body, Netball WA, saying the two companies “do not wish to add to Netball’s disunity problems.”
The statement added that Netball Australia and Netball WA offered four months of funding while finding new partners; however, the companies doubled down on their opinions about the players’ stance. Rinehart and Hancock said they considered it “unnecessary for sports organizations to be used as a vehicle for social or political causes.”
“There are more targeted and genuine ways to progress social or political causes without virtue signalling or for self-publicity,” the statement added.
Netball is a popular team sport in Australia, with 1.2 million players, but Netball Australia has had well-known financial difficulties. It had a loss last year of 4.4 million Australian dollars or $2.8 million. Now the line between sports, corporate sponsorship, and political correctness is being tested in Australia.