By Tim Martin, Australian Times, 31 July, 2012
AUSTRALIAN boxer Damien Hooper has been reprimanded by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) for wearing an Aboriginal flag t-shirt into the ring for his first Olympic boxing bout in London.
The Aboriginal Australian, and London 2012 gold medal hopeful, wanted to “represent his culture” but didn’t know wearing the shirt was against the IOC charter which prevents political statements at the Games.
“I’m Aboriginal, I’m representing my culture, not only my country but all my people as well,” Hooper said.
“That’s what I wanted to do and I’m happy I did it.
“I was just thinking about my family and that’s what really matters to me.”
Hooper defeated his American opponent Marcus Browne in a come-from-behind points decision and looked very impressive in his opening bout.
“Look what it just did – it just made my whole performance a lot better with that whole support behind me.”
However Australian Olympic chef de mission Nick Green spoke to Hooper after the incident to let him know that that kind of behaviour was unacceptable.
“We know Damien’s got a very proud indigenous heritage,” Green said.
“I’ve had a conversation with Damien, he’s extremely apologetic for his actions. He has confirmed with me it was a one off and he won’t do it again. He was very remorseful.”
Green said the matter would be taken no further.
“He’s apologised and looked me in the eye and said he won’t do it again.”
But the incident has divided opinion in Australia, with controversial Australian boxer Anthony Mundine backing Hooper’s actions and saying it was a proud gesture for the Aboriginal people.
“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.
“We want to be proud of a flag that we fly and the current Australian flag just doesn’t sit well because of its dark history.”
He even said the AOC were wrong to make Hooper apologise.
“I think the Australian Olympic Committee should have a good look at themselves,” Mundine continued. “It’s just like Cathy Freeman did [in 2000] … she flew both when she won the gold. But for me I’d love to see the flag change and have our people recognised on that flag. As long as we are not recognised and united, I can’t stand for it. I never will.”