Jones accused of sullying Australia~~s reputation

Published: Wednesday, August 9, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Cricket pundit Dean Jones was accused of tarnishing Australia's reputation for racial tolerance after labelling a South African Muslim player a "terrorist" during a Test in Sri Lanka.

Jones was sacked by his TV employers after saying on air "the terrorist has got another wicket" when bearded Muslim Hashim Amla caught Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara during the second Test in Colombo on Monday.

Jones' return home in disgrace made front-page news across Australia, with the Melbourne Age declaring "Gone! Deano caught out by 'terrorist' remark" and the Sydney Morning Herald headlining its story "Me and my big mouth."

Sydney's Daily Telegraph detailed other foot-in-mouth moments by Australian-based commentators, including Tony Greig's remark "Do you think she's been flown in?" when the camera panned to a wedding between a Filipina woman and Caucasian man during an idle moment in a Sydney cricket match.

The Herald said in a comment piece that Jones' outburst deserved condemnation and displayed a serious problem in Australian sport that needed to be addressed.

"Yet again a racism controversy has rattled international sport. And, yet again, an Australian is at its epicentre," it said.

"Racial insensitivity is a real and a serious issue in Australian sport. Unsavoury? Perhaps, but it's better to be stung by the truth than appeased by a distortion of it."

It cited allegations earlier this year that Australian crowds called South African players "kaffirs" and the 2003 suspension of batsman Darren Lehmann for derogatory comments directed at Sri Lankan players.

However, the condemnation was far from universal. Melbourne's top-rating commercial radio station 3AW confirmed Jones would return to its commentary box for upcoming internationals Down Under, including The Ashes against England.

"We haven't had a lot of people getting upset about what he said on talkback," a station spokeswoman told AFP.

"He will be commentating for us this summer, as he does every summer."

Discussion about the controversy on the Telegraph's website mainly supported Jones, with reader Steve Franklin saying "political correctness has gone too far."

Another reader named Farooq disagreed, saying: "It is totally insane calling someone terrorist just because he has beard which represents a relgious belief."

Racial controversy in Australian sport is not limited to cricket.

NSW Waratahs prop Justin Harrison was suspended last year for a racial slur against a Cats winger in South Africa, while tennis star Lleyton Hewitt was accused in 2001 of singling out a black linesman for criticism when playing African-American James Blake.

The Aboriginal community has also complained on numerous occasions about racism on the playing field, prompting many Australian sporting organisations to develop codes attempting to address the problem.

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