The cricket world has come out swinging after Scott Morrison sparked controversy by criticising the sport for taking a political stand on Australia Day.

On Thursday the Prime Minister slammed Cricket Australia's decision to omit references to Australia Day from the Big Bash League (BBL) as "pretty ordinary", saying he hoped it took note of a public backlash.

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After consulting with Indigenous leaders, CA is choosing not to market games as "Australia Day" clashes, instead referring to them as "January 26" matches because it wants be inclusive of all people Down Under, including First Nations people who view the date as a dark day in the nation's history.

However, Mr Morrison was completely against the decision, telling Queensland's 4RO radio: "A bit more focus on cricket, a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia.

"I think that's pretty ordinary. But I mean, that's what they're putting on their press releases."

Despite the call-out, CA is refusing to budge.

Former Australian player turned commentator, CA board member and co-chair of the governing body's National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, Mel Jones, is standing behind the call and even offered to talk the Prime Minister through the decision.

Cricket journalist Melinda Farrell tweeted: "I wonder if he'll take @meljones_33 up on the offer?"

Cricket writer and broadcaster Geoff Lemon took aim, tweeting: "Scott Morrison trying to go up against Mel Jones is a top of the range credibility mismatch."

Fellow broadcaster Adam Collins also rebuked the Prime Minister's stance, while Damien Peck tweeted: "OK, but can we now ban all politicians from sport?"

Sports writer Daniel Jeffrey shared a photo from the summer of 2019/2020 of Mr Morrison talking to Steve Smith at the Gabba ahead of the first Test against Pakistan.

At the time the PM was widely slammed for tweeting his support of the Australian cricket team when bushfire catastrophes were raging. His claim that Smith and Co. would give bushfire victims "something to cheer for" went down like a lead balloon.

Jeffrey posted the image and tweeted: "I like the part where Scotty is allowed to focus on cricket (during a horrific bushfire season) but Cricket Australia isn't allowed to focus on politics."

Mr Morrison also caused a stir with further comments about Australia Day, telling reporters: "You know on Australia Day, it's all about acknowledging how far we've come. When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney all those years ago, it wasn't a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either."

Australian pace bowler Megan Schutt lashed the Prime Minister. She responded to a video of those comments by tweeting: "My word, this is embarrassing … as well as insensitive and divisive.

"Maybe you should focus more on politics and less on cricket?"

Schutt also "liked" a host of tweets rebuking Mr Morrison, including a link to an article about Cricket Australia standing its ground, a tweet supporting Mel Jones and a post from former AFL player Brandon Jack, which read: "I hate the talk around keeping politics out of sport. A) ignoring a conversation is a statement in itself and B) you can't claim that sport is a central component of this nation's cultural identity but then say it should stick to the field when it attempts to shift the culture."

On Instagram, Schutt shared a post from satirical website the Betoota Advocate with the headline: "Cricket Australia tells Scotty from marketing to focus more on politics and less on cricket."

There were also many on social media suggesting Mr Morrison should rename the annual cricket fixture between a visiting team and the Prime Minister's XI if he doesn't want sport and politics to mix.

The Prime Minister wants cricket to stay in its lane.
The Prime Minister wants cricket to stay in its lane.

Jones explained the thinking behind not referring to the BBL matches on Tuesday as "Australia Day" matches.

"It's recognition that it's a really hurtful day for many," Jones said. "We've got five Indigenous players playing those games and a lot of Indigenous fans that come to the cricket, we just want to make this space as safe and inclusive as possible.

"Cricket Australia is very comfortable with where it's at. It's come from a cricket decision space, (we're) more than happy to have a conversation with the Prime Minister, more just so he can see where we're coming from.

"It opens up these conversations, otherwise there's no change at all. Some people aren't open to change, but I think a change where people are happy on this day and feel safe, I think that's a good space to get into."

 

Originally published as Photo comes back to haunt Scott Morrison


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