POLL: Should boxer Damien Hooper have apologized for displaying an Aboriginal flag at the Olympics?

Hooper at his Men's Light Heavyweight (81kg) match-up

An Aboriginal boxer competing on behalf of Australia who also maintains clear allegiances to his people has gotten into some hot water for his visible display of the latter at the summer Olympic Games in London this week. In what is perhaps an ironically telling comment on the state of that country’s effort at Settler/Aboriginal reconciliation, it appears Damien Hooper is the one who’s been made to say ‘sorry.’

The nature of his transgression? According to The Australian, Hooper — one of 10 Indigenous athletes on the team — was guilty of

“wearing a black T-shirt bearing the Aboriginal flag as he arrived for his impressive opening fight win against American Marcus Browne. It went against Australian team rules, which state athletes must only wear the official team uniform.”

Under those rules, essentially a carbon-copy of Olympic rules, that act of pride simultaneously constituted an act of politics.

Pressured by the Australian Olympic Committee (itself reportedly pressured by the International Olympic Committee), Hooper soon apologized for the flag flap. But if the 20-year-old athlete is contrite for what he did, the reasons why he did it tell a different story. Or so one is encouraged to wonder by his initial response:

“I’m Aboriginal, I’m representing my culture, not only my country but all my people as well. That’s what I wanted to do and I’m happy I did it.”

So, what to make of all this? In her provocative piece, “On the Olympics & Being Indigenous,” Leanne Simpson asserts that

“[E]very aspect of the Olympics is political…  they reflect the politics of both the ruling nation-states of the world and corporations. You can wear a shirt with Canada on it. You can wear shoes with Adidas on them. That’s fine, because it’s ‘not political.’ Unless of course you’re Indigenous and these corporations and nation states are causing never-ending harm, destruction and trauma to your land and your people.”

For her part, Simpson says Hooper “should be proud [of what he did] … He took a risk in the biggest sporting event of his life to tell those Old Ones that he remembered.”

What do you think? Take a moment to vote in our poll and/or leave a comment below.

UPDATE: Realizing there was no poll option for someone who thought Hooper should not have backed down, come what may, I have added another way to vote, namely, “No: Hopper should have stood his ground, even if it meant his immediate removal from Australia’s Olympic team”

[polldaddy poll=”6431172″]

15 thoughts on “POLL: Should boxer Damien Hooper have apologized for displaying an Aboriginal flag at the Olympics?


  2. In 1995, the Australian Government proclaimed the (Aboriginal) flag as an official ‘Flag of Australia’ under section 5 of the Flags Act 1953. The issue is whether the AOC and the IOC are ignorant of the official status the flag  holds in Australia or whether they choose to ignore that fact. 

  3. what we have is someone showing his pride in his nation in a land that is known by the name Australia – just as in Canada where Aboriginal people are the First and Original Nation living in a land known as Canada in the modern, post colonial world. 

  4. Thank you Hooper for showing your cultural pride, they cannot take that away from you, shame on you Australia for such a colonial attitude.  There are too many rules that are unnecessary when you represent your country, something like this should be  considered.  Remember when Alwin Morris showed his true colours when he showed his feather with pride.     

  5. No comparisons to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City? The so-called “Black Power” salute of two runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the third person on that same podium, a white Australian – Peter Norman.

    It seems not much has changed with Australia. And it should.

    Damien Hooper has a legacy to honour, and he did. Too bad he felt he had to apologize for doing the right thing just like Peter Norman.


    1968 Olympics

    Main article: 1968 Olympics Black Power salute

    The gold and bronze medalists in the 200m at the 1968 Olympics were Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, respectively. On the medal podium, during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Smith and Carlos famously joined in a Black Power salute.

    What is less known is that Norman, a white Australian, donned a badge on the podium in support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). After the race, Carlos and Smith told Norman what they were planning to do during the ceremony. As Flanagan wrote:
    “They asked Norman if he believed in human rights. He said he did. They asked him if he believed in God. Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background,
    said he believed strongly in God. “We knew that what we were going to do
    was far greater than any athletic feat. He said, ‘I’ll stand with
    you’.” Carlos said he expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes. He didn’t.
    “I saw love.[6] On the way out to the medal ceremony, Norman saw the badge being worn by Paul Hoffman, a white member of the US Rowing Team, and asked him if he could wear it.[7]
    It was also Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black
    gloves used in their salute, after Carlos left his gloves in the Olympic
    Village.[8] This is the reason for Tommie Smith raising his right fist, while John Carlos raised his left.

    Australia’s Olympic authorities reprimanded him and the Australian
    media ostracised him; Norman was also banned for two years on his
    return. Despite Norman running qualifying times for the 100m five times
    and 200m 13 times during 1971/72, the Australian Olympic track team did
    not send him, or any other male sprinters, to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the first modern Olympics since 1896 where no Australian sprinters participated.[7]

    Death and honour

    Norman died of a heart attack on 3 October 2006 in Melbourne at the age of 64.[9] US Track and Field Federation
    proclaimed 9 October 2006, the date of his funeral, as Peter Norman
    Day. Thirty-eight years after the three made history, both Smith and
    Carlos gave eulogies and were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral.[3]

  6. As an Aboriginal person his people existed before the land was known as Australia, he represented the truth about his nationality and culture. How does that hurt Australia and what is he suppose to be sorry for? Think Australia should be the one to apologize for acknowledging their obvious disdain toward the 1st Nations of the land. 

  7. Why should Aboriginal people fly the union jack?? It’s treason anyway by having a foreign flag on another countries flag. CHANGE THE AUSTRALIAN FLAG NOW!!! [-o-]

  8.  Just goes to show what a Nazi, gate-keeper, hypocritical society Australia is – first people can’t even fly a flag in peace

  9. Voting is a colonial mindf—! This is about freedom and most difficult for the colonized spirit to understand. I observe the point has been made and taken. Good on you grandson.

  10. Wow 2012 and the world has problems with Aboriginal people and our beliefs of representing our nations…We are not going anywhere Canada or Olympic rules for that matter….Recognize that we have been here a lot longer then the people making the rules…

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