Tony Armstrong has praised Donnell Wallam and taken aim at Gina Rinehart after Hancock Prospecting pulled out of a $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia.
Hancock Prospecting tore up the lucrative sponsorship contract last weekend after Indigenous player Donnell Wallam objected to wearing a Diamonds’ uniform with the Hancock logo during Australia’s series against England.
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This was because of comments made by its founder Lang Hancock about “sterilising” Indigenous Australians in the 1980s.
Wallam let her netball do the talking with a sensational Diamonds debut on Wednesday, coming off the bench to score the matchwinning goal in Australia’s thrilling 55-54 win over England.
The 28-year-old has becoming the unwilling face of the sponsorship saga and described the controversy as the “toughest few weeks of my life”, breaking down after the game.
Speaking on The Project on Thursday night, Armstrong criticised sections of the Australian media for lauding Rinehart’s philanthropic work in Indigenous communities and failing to condemn her father’s comments.
“The pro-Gina PR push has gone into overdrive with article after article about Gina’s philanthropic niceness,” he said in a piece-to-camera.
“$300 million in royalty payments to Indigenous Australians over here, community funds making it rain over there, it’s just money, money, money for the good of blackfellas everywhere.
“Hancock is a company that last year announced profits of $7.3 billion. When pro-Gina media shouted that her actions speak louder than words, what they really mean is money talks. Gina throws money at things to win them over.”
Rinehart has not publicly condemned or distanced herself from her father’s comments about Indigenous Australians and Armstrong offered her to come on The Project to discuss the matter.
“The fact remains that what her dad said while at the helm of Hancock Prospecting is hands down the worst thing anything could say about another race,” he continued.
“Let’s be clear, he was not a senile blow-in who got drunk and shot his mouth off. He was the mining pioneer who started the company. He was the one who handed the reins to Gina. He believed every one of those words.
“Us blackfellas are big on truth-telling. So in the spirit of reconciliation, Gina, what do you think about your dad’s comments? We just want to know what you reckon. Send us an email or come join us on the desk.
“Just let us know, Gina. As Australia’s richest person, your words and opinions matter.”
Armstrong, a proud Barranbinya man, finished by praising Wallam for her debut and how she’s handled herself throughout the ordeal.
“What a superstar,” he said.
“Let’s not forget the role Donnell Wallam’s played in the middle of all this. She’s an absolute champion. Eight from eight on the court last night and the winning goal. She’s a superstar, I love her, shout out to her.
“Full credit to the rest of the team for standing by her as well.”
Co-host Waleed Aly said the outrage in response to Wallam’s request not to wear the Hancock logo had been overblown.
“A lot of this has been presented as she tried to tear the whole thing down,” he added.
“She didn’t. She had a very understandable problem, she told her teammates about it, they were moved by what she said and then decided they would stand in solidarity.
“She didn’t say, ‘I’m trying to burn the join down’ or any of that sort of stuff. I feel like that distinction has been completely lost in this and she’s just at the bottom of something that almost has nothing to do with what she actually did.”
Wallam will likely next take to the court in game two of the Diamonds’ series against the England Roses in Sydney on Sunday.
Australian Diamonds vs England Roses series
Game 2: Sunday 30 October 7.30pm AEDT – Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
Game 3: Thursday 3 November 7.30pm AEDT – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Brisbane
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