'I take my hat off to him': Mundine backs Hooper's flag stance
Australian boxing medal hope Damien Hooper "did the right thing" in defying team protocol to wear an Aboriginal flag T-shirt into the ring at the London Olympics, former world champion Anthony Mundine says.
Hooper was reported to the International Olympic Committee for wearing the shirt, rather than his red Olympic fighting strip, as he entered the ExCel arena for his first-round clash against the American Marcus Browne on Monday. As an Australian Olympic Committee spokesman said the 20-year-old light heavyweight would apologise to chef de mission Nick Green, Mundine called on the young Queenslander to stick to his guns.
"I take my hat off to him for that stance," Mundine said. "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.
"That is as authentic as Australian as you can get. That is a true Australian right there, full stop, no ifs or buts. How can we be proud as Aboriginal Australians and see the sight of the Union Jack and what that flag has done in the past, the genocide the rape and the murder and the stolen children? I can't stand for that. That's why I never fly that flag at my fights. I want to fly a flag that represents all of us because now we're a multicultural Australia."
After overwhelming Browne with a final-round assault, Hooper – a genuine gold medal chance in the division – did not indicate he had worn the T-shirt for political reasons but in recognition of his heritage. The world No.2's mother is an indigenous Australian and he credited his background with driving him to the come-from-behind points victory.
Mundine, who has held world titles in three weight classes, applauded Hooper's controversial attire and said indigenous athletes should not have to recognise the Australian flag while the Union Jack remained a feature of it.
"I think the Australian Olympic Committee should have a good look at themselves," he said. "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. The South Africans, they changed their flag. As long as we are not recognised and united, I can't stand for it. I never will."
Mundine firmly believes Hooper can become Australia's first ever Olympic boxing gold medallist in London, then go on to have a prosperous professional career. Hooper has said he will make the change after the Games.
"He's an amazing talent," Mundine said. "We've got so many great especially Aboriginal boxers coming through. The talent is vast. It's just a matter of if they're wanting to dedicate themselves to their discipline. The world is their oyster, it's just a matter of where they want to take it.
"I don't think there is a race that is naturally gifted as the Australian Aborigine. We make up one to two per cent of the population and what our people have achieved in sport is amazing. We've had some of the best athletes in the world."