It's common knowledge that sportsmen and women are, generally, not the most politicized or progressive creatures on the planet. But thankfully there are exceptions. And one is former Australian cricket captain, Ian Chappell.
During the recent Ashes cricket match in Cardiff, BBC cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew mentioned to co-commentator Chappell that former right-wing Australian Prime Minister John Howard was watching the cricket and asked Chappell if he had ever voted for Howard. Chappell ignored Agnew and pointedly talked about the action on field. Agnew tried again. Again Chappell ignored him. Chappell loathes Howard.
Chappell had once walked out of a commentary box during a Test in Sydney when Howard entered, in protest after Afghan boat refugees were refused entry to Australia.
A repeat of the walk-out in Cardiff was averted only because Chappell was being presented with an ICC Hall of Fame cap on the field while Howard was being interviewed by Agnew in the radio booth. In fact Chappell had made sure he was out of Howard's way by listening in through an earpiece to establish the former PM's whereabouts.
Chappell's loathing of Howard stems from the appalling treatment meted out to asylum seekers trying to enter Australia. Chappell has been a high-profile activist for better treatment of asylum seekers by the Australian Government, in particular its policy of mandatory detention.
Chappell has been quoted as saying:
'And I'm sitting there in front of the television news and watching all those people on the Tampa and I'm thinking this is terrible. No matter what you think about protecting the Australian borders, these are human beings, and you can't just treat them like that, and I was… I was getting really angry. The games that I've played in my life are very good tutors in teaching you what is fair and what is unfair, and I was offended by what I saw with the Tampa crisis. I just thought that's not fair. In cricketing parlance, it was like cheating, that I felt that those people, the refugees, were being cheated out of a fair go. You're born here, and you're pretty proud of a lot of things that Australia does, but to hear them talk about, you know, some of the things that Australia has done to them was embarrassing. You wanted to say to them, you know, look, not all Australians feel that way. You know, it's... it's pretty bad. I feel horrible about having to apologize for my own country.'
All power to Chappell. A sporting star willing to stand up for what he believes. He puts the others to shame.