Winmar to pursue legal action over Newman podcast

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Nicky Winmar and photographer Wayne Ludbey are pursuing legal action against Sam Newman, Don Scott and Mike Sheahan over claims on their podcast that Winmar's iconic gesture in lifting his St Kilda jumper and pointing to his skin after a game against Collingwood in 1993 was not about race.

Winmar and Ludbey have engaged the services of the high powered law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler, with a long history of dealing in reconciliation, meeting this week to defend the truth of their account of events at Victoria Park on April 17, 1993, after the Saints defeated the Magpies in large part through outstanding performances by Winmar and his friend, teammate and fellow Indigenous footballer Gilbert McAdam.

All three men were incensed to hear how one of the proudest and most significant moments in the history of Indigenous Australia had been questioned, with the podcast's pronouncements re-published widely through digital media.

With varying degrees of ferocity, Scott, Sheahan and Newman all questioned whether Winmar's gesture, lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin, was about proudly declaring his Blackness, instead arguing that, in Scott's words, "St Kilda played Collingwood and my recollection was that St Kilda won and Nicky lifted his jumper saying, 'That was a gutsy effort. We have got heart'. Now it's been misconstrued."

Sheahan added: "The only person who knows what he meant is Nicky Winmar. He now says he was pointing to the colour of his skin. Unlike some of the people I work with, I'm going to consider it before I give an answer. I was at Victoria Park that day ... and I reckon I left the ground thinking he was talking about guts."

Newman concluded that the episode "just morphed into all that other by activists."

Ludbey, who was shooting the Saturday afternoon game for the Sunday Age, has never wavered in his account of what he saw and heard. "Never at any stage in the last 27 years have I veered off my original story," Ludbey told ESPN. "I was assigned to do that game, and not only did I photograph it but in front of me was an Indigenous man responding to racism. I didn't hear any specific racism directed at him, but he was responding to it and lifted his jumper, pointed at his skin and said 'I'm Black and I'm proud to be Black'.

"I was just doing my job, and it's not about me. It's about a man, a moment and a comment, and his friend Gilbert McAdam. What Mike, Sam and Don don't realise is that I had a 400mm lens on initially, and then I put on a wide angle lens, I only had one camera, and then I ran after Nicky, and he ran to Gilbert. Nicky was in front of the social club area there and then he ran into the centre of the ground where Gilbert was, I was not far behind.

"They embraced and brought their heads together, and Nicky was repeatedly saying in that euphoric moment of celebration, 'I'm Black and I'm proud to be Black, I'm Black and proud to be Black, I'm Black and proud to be Black', to Gilbert as they embraced. So I don't know if I can be any more specific about what happened."

The origins of the other interpretation of Winmar's gesture can be traced back to another photographer, John Feder, taking a similar image to his own newsroom. "Unfortunately when he went back to the Sunday Herald Sun, his editors didn't listen to him, and decided to go with the Tony Shaw interpretation," Ludbey said. "He's been quoted confirming what happened."

Caroline Wilson, who was also working at the Sunday Age in 1993, has said that the questioning of Winmar's moment had raised a lot of anger among senior Indigenous figures in and around the AFL.

"I'm disappointed, Don Scott might have remembered that, but I know this has really upset a lot of senior Indigenous AFL people," Wilson told 3AW radio. "They're really upset that this has been put out there. They see it as attention seeking.

"Sam would call it political correctness that I'm even saying this, but I'm just staggered that everybody remembers what Wayne Ludbey reported, said, heard. What Nicky said afterwards. Why? Why would you do this at a time when people are feeling so vulnerable across Australia and many Indigenous people too. I just don't understand it."

Ludbey was still more strident in his views about the podcast's choice of topic. "This is not a hit and a giggle, this is not three old fuddy duddies in a studio having a bit of fun," he said. "This is a strategic thing on the behalf of them to make money by kicking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, because they believe they can't fight back. There's no grey area in this - they knew what they were doing."

CLARIFICATION: This 26 June 2020 article accurately reported statements and remarks that were provided to ESPN Australia. Sam Newman and Don Scott subsequently took legal action in respect of those statements, and expressed to ESPN that they and all members of the You Cannot Be Serious Podcast are strong supporters of inclusivity and equality and condemn discrimination of any kind.