It may be too much to ask of professional athletes to take on the role of real life heroes, but when sporting icons make a gesture, the effects can often be far-reaching.
Taking a knee to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement is the biggest recent example of athletes advocating empathy beyond the playing fields. The red poppy is worn in English sport annually as a symbol of remembrance and tribute to the armed forces.
Australia cricketers joined the band on Friday, swapping their traditional yellow-and-green by wearing a predominatly black jersey adorned with intricate aboriginal patterns in orange and yellow.
The design, a collaboration between sports goods manufacturer ASICS and Indigenous women Aunty Fiona Clarke and Courtney Hagen, is part of recent efforts to recognise and encourage the involvement of Indigenous Australians in cricket. Clarke is a descendent of ‘Mosquito’ Conzens (called Grongarrong), an aboriginal cricketer who went on the 1868 tour of England, as part of the first Australian sporting team to play abroad.
There have been painful phases in Australia’s history involving Indigenous people. In 2008, the country’s parliament issued a formal apology for the forced removal of Australian indigenous children in what is known as the “stolen generations” row.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Cathy Freeman, of aboriginal descent, lit the flame and then won the women’s 400m, which was of immense value to Australia as a healing touch.
Ashley Barty, Australia’s world No.1 woman tennis player of aboriginal heritage, also played professional cricket. Australian women’s cricket team had worn a special Indigeneous shirt in a match against England early this year.
The shirt as a message has other examples too–Australian men’s team wear pink annually for breast cancer awareness, in support of the McGrath foundation, established in memory of the former bowling great’s wife Jane. Royal Challengers Bangalore switch from their red-and-gold to green for one match during every IPL for environment awareness.