Damien Hooper’s spectacular first round victory over America’s Marcus Browne in the light heavyweight division at the Olympics has been overshadowed by the drama that came from the Australian’s walk out shirt, which displayed the Aboriginal flag.
Before coming to the Olympics, athletes were made to sign a charter saying that they will wear the team uniform at all times.
By flying the Aboriginal flag on his shirt, Hooper was in breach of this shirt. In addition, the IOC frowns upon athletes making political statements.
But was the action of the Australian Olympic Committee making the IOC aware of the issue needed? Couldn’t they have dealt with it quietly back in the athlete’s village when he returned after the fight?
If Hooper’s shirt had in fact displayed the Australian flag or a boxing kangaroo, which would have still been in breach of the rules, would we still be hearing about this in the press?
“We will talk to Damien and counsel him against doing it again,” said Australian team media director Mike Tancred.
Hooper wasn’t fazed by the drama, instead saying he was representing his culture.
“I’m Aboriginal, I’m representing my culture, not only my country but all my people as well,” Hooper said in an interview. “That’s what I wanted to do and I’m happy I did it.”
Former Olympic runner Cathy Freeman did a similar thing back in 1994 and 2000 when she ran a lap of the athletic track celebrating a win sporting both the Aboriginal and Australian flag, which was also criticised by the Australian chef.
Aboriginal boxer Anthony Mundine has thrown his support behind Hooper, saying that the 20-year-old “did the right thing”.
“I take my hat off to him for that stance,” Mundine told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“It takes a person with big balls to make a big stance like that. I’ve got his back, all day every day, because he’s in the right.”
But on the flip side, what makes Hooper more special than the rest of the athletes who follow the protocols?
I doubt this is the last we will hear on the story, but can’t we just let Hooper achieve his dream of winning gold?
Hooper will be back in action on Saturday night when he faces the well credentialed Russian Egor Mekhontcev for a spot in the quarter-finals.