Sport Integrity Australia CEO calls for sports leaders to drive cultural reform

  • Media Statement

Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe has today called on leaders in sport to use the power of their brands to drive cultural reform in Australian sport.

Mr Sharpe said the focus should be on the athletic performances of our athletes, instead the headlines are being dominated by cultural problems in sport, including allegations of racism.

He is particularly critical of the downplaying of these issues by influential people in Australian sport.

“Attitudes won’t change until the narrative changes,” Mr Sharpe said.

“Sport and sponsors’ brands are being aligned with poor behaviours, yet these brands have the power to drive a cultural shift to eradicate these poor behaviours.”

Mr Sharpe said commentary attempting to normalise or justify these behaviours needs to be called out by leaders in Australian sport.

“It is 2024, not 1924, and there must be zero-tolerance when it comes to racism in sport,” he said. “Any inappropriate comments, whatever they are in nature, are not just a bit of ‘banter’ or ‘just fun and games on the field’.

“There are no excuses for slurs that could be interpreted as racist in nature. If the comments cause hurt, then intent is irrelevant. If the comments offend an individual, they also offend their families, their countries, their culture.”

Former champion sprinter and Sport Integrity Australia’s Culture and Safety Advisor, Patrick Johnson, said there’s no place for racism in Australian society.

“Sport brings people together and it needs to reflect and mirror our actions, values and aspiration as a society and country,” Mr Johnson said. “We need to draw a clear line in the sand.

“We are all responsible to call out racism, we do not tolerate it in our sport now or in the future, our kids deserve better as this doesn’t represent our Australian way of life.”

Mr Sharpe urged everyone involved in sport to call out poor behaviour.

“We see strong messages sent to fans and crowds found guilty of racist slurs with lengthy penalties.

“These same sanctions need to apply to athletes. Australian sports leaders and sponsors must send a message to the world in the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games. The world is watching. Eradicating racism in sport is the legacy we could be proud of.”

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