Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser is under heavy criticism after suggesting 20-year-old Aussie tennis player Nick Kyrgios should go back to where his parents came from after his antics in a fourth-round loss at Wimbledon.
Kyrgios lost to Richard Gasquet in four sets after bizarrely tanking a game in the second set.
In an interview on the morning TV show Today, Fraser was asked about Kyrgios and fellow tennis Australian star Bernard Tomic, both of whom are the sons of immigrants.
“They should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country. This great country of ours,” Fraser said. “If they don’t like it, go back to where their fathers or their parents came from. We don’t need them in this country to act like that.”
That “go back to where their parents came from” line was immediately decried as racist. Kyrgios himself called it “blatantly racist” in a Facebook post.
In it, he compares the words used to describe him at Wimbledon (“brat,” “disrespectful,” “spoilt,” “arrogant”) with the words used to describe Fraser (“Australian legend”). Here’s the full post:
Kyrgios describes himself as a “proud Australian tennis player with a strong Greek and Malaysian heritage” on his Facebook. His mum also condemned the comment:
Fraser later apologised in a statement (via the Guardian):
“I want to unreservedly apologise for any comments that I made this morning which may have caused offence to my fellow Australians, including Nick and his family. The live-to-air clip was part of a larger un-broadcasted interview however this does not condone what was said.
“My intended message, which was not delivered as articulately as it could have been — was on a purely sporting level rather than meant as an attack on Nick’s ethnicity. Nick’s representing Australia and I want to see him representing Australian tennis in the best possible light.”
But before she released that statement she told Fairfax Media that her comments weren’t actually racist.
“I said, ‘If they don’t want to be Australians then maybe they should go back to the country where their parents come from’. That’s not being racist,” she said.
Fraser, 77, won four Olympic gold medals during her swimming career.
Her comments on Kyrgios are now the talk of the Australian sports world. Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane commented:
NBA player Andrew Bogut, one of the country’s most successful athletes, called it unacceptable:
Kyrgios is one of the best young players in the world. He’s also the most divisive because of his emotional on-court demeanour.
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