Australia's Coates defends AOC record after "whitewashing" claims

by Reuters
Saturday, 8 May 2021 06:18 GMT

Australian Olympians pose in front of the Sydney Opera House at the unveiling of the team uniforms for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in Sydney, Australia March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Nick Mulvenney

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The Australian Olympic Committee defended the advert by team sponsor Jockey after criticism from two-time Olympian Liz Cambage for not including any non-white athletes

May 8 (Reuters) - The president of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) on Saturday conceded a more diverse group of athletes should have been used in an advertisement for a local underwear brand after harsh criticism from two-time Olympian Liz Cambage.

However, President John Coates defended the body's broader record on race representation, as the AOC announced it had amended its constitution to ensure a permanent Indigenous representative on the body's Athletes' Commission.

An image from a promotional photoshoot with team sponsor Jockey released this week showed Australian Olympic and Paralympic athletes in sponsored outfits, but did not feature any athletes of colour.

Basketball player Cambage, a bronze medal winner at the 2012 Games in London who plays in the WNBA for the Las Vegas Aces, launched a scathing attack on social media. Cambage suggested she would boycott the Games if the situation did not change.

"If I've said it once I've said it a million times. HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME #whitewashedaustralia," the 29-year-old, who has a Nigerian father, posted on Instagram.

Coates said Cambage's comment "was to do with Jockey, we should have had more diversification in that advertisement.

"I don't think it holds for anything else we do. You've seen the Asics (photo-shoot) and you've seen the emphasis we place on Indigenous," he told reporters after leaving the AOC annual meeting in Sydney.

Cambage had also criticised the advertisement by the Japanese sports apparel firm, which included Indigenous Australian rugby sevens player Maurice Longbottom.

The change to the AOC constitution means at least one Aboriginal and one Torres Straight Islander athlete must be on the commission, with individuals selected by the AOC's executive if no Indigenous athletes have been elected.

Cambage had earlier rejected an initial apology from the AOC, calling for more action on diversity.

"We have a diversity issue, we have an inclusion issue, and we have a visibility issue for kids growing up that don't see anyone that looks like them in magazines, on TV, on the news, anywhere," she wrote.

"And Australia, if you have an issue with my words, you are the issue, and you can kiss my black arse.

"And yes I saw the apology. Words don't mean anything to me. Actions mean something to me. So let me see it."

Cambage has been a vocal advocate for social justice causes and a critic of Australia's treatment of Indigenous Australians. (Writing by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Jane Wardell)

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