The Free Speech Warriors In The “No” Campaign Want To Stop A Song They Don’t Like

Maybe they should Mackle less.

marriage equality

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Remember when the government insisted that marriage equality was such an important issue that it could only be settled by an unprecedented national vote? And remember when conservative MPs then spent weeks claiming that the whole marriage equality issue was really about protecting freedom of speech, which is one of the most fundamental tenets of our democracy?

Well what would you say if I told you those same MPs are now trying to prevent Macklemore from performing his song, ‘Same Love’, at this weekend’s NRL Grand Final because they don’t like the message?

Wouldn’t that be funny? Wouldn’t that be ironic? Wouldn’t it just be the silliest, most head-bangingly stupid and infuriating moment in a debate that has been defined so far by its stupidity?


In case you missed it, Macklemore will be performing his LGBTIQ+ equality anthem, which reached number one on the Aussie charts in 2013, at this weekend’s NRL Grand Final. This isn’t new information. We knew about it ages ago. But at the time, no one knew that we’d be holding a national survey on the rights of gay people at the same time.

Fast forward to today, and there’s now a petition from former rugby league player Tony Wall calling on the NRL to “take LGBTIQ politics out [of the Grand Final]”. For what it’s worth, Wall played ten games for the now-defunct Western Suburbs Magpies in 1995.

Wall’s petition was picked up by conservative columnist Miranda Devine today.

And then the really big guns came out. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott stepped up to call on the NRL take keep politics out of sport.

“Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final,” screamed the politician who presented medals at the 2014 NRL Grand Final, where the crowd mercilessly booed the shit out of him.

That’s the same Tony Abbott who’s happy to throw on a Manly Sea Eagles jersey and kick a footy around whenever it suits him as well.

The NRL, to its credit, says Macklemore’s performance has nothing to do with politics. He’ll just be singing a collection of his most popular songs.

They Only Like Free Speech When It Suits Them

After all this, the chief spokesperson for the No campaign, Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton, stepped in with his own tweet. Shelton wrote that the NRL should “just let people watch the footy”.

Interestingly, Shelton has also spent the first weeks of the campaign telling anyone who will listen that the postal survey on marriage equality is actually a referendum on free speech. It’s one of the few arguments he’s got left since all of his other arguments have been picked apart over the years.

But apparently Shelton thinks that free speech only applies when he agrees with the speech, like when it’s being written in the sky over people’s heads.

Shelton’s tweet quoted another No campaign spokesperson saying that “not everything needs to be about same-sex marriage”, which is amazing for an organisation created for the sole purpose of discussing same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, it’s a pretty safe bet that the No campaign will run ads during this weekend’s Grand Final, just as it has in previous NRL finals matches.

Oh, Hey, Sport Is The Perfect Place To Discuss Politics

While we’re at it, the idea that sports and politics don’t mix is nonsense. Few things unify the nation like sport. This weekend, millions of people will tune in to watch Grand Finals put on by two codes that have loudly and clearly expressed their support for marriage equality in the past.

Sport is a wonderful platform to expose society’s inequalities, injustices and inherent wrongs.

Where would we be if Nicky Winmar hadn’t proudly lifted his guernsey and pointed to the colour of his skin? Or if Adam Goodes hadn’t spent two seasons standing up for his right to be a proud Aboriginal Australian?

What about the athletes around the world who refused to tour in apartheid South Africa? Should they have stayed silent? Or when Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the Olympic podium with their fists raised in a symbol of defiance?

Right now in the US, the NFL is at war with President Donald Trump over players’ rights to take a knee during the national anthem in protest at racial injustice.

What about Katherine Switzer, who ran a marathon just to prove that women could do it too?

All of these moments created huge controversy at the time (or are still creating controversy), but they also gave us some of the most iconic moments in sporting history and sparked national and global conversations about injustice.

If we didn’t mix sport and politics, we never would have had any of them.

Rob Stott is the Managing Editor of Junkee Media. He tweets @rob_stott.