The NFL isn’t the only league experiencing pushback from politicians.
It’s also happening in Australia’s National Rugby League, which is set to host its Grand Final championship game on Sunday. In place of kneeling athletes, however, conservative politicians and fans in Australia are taking aim at American rapper Macklemore, who is slated to perform a four-song medley, including his 2012 hit “Same Love,” a song about marriage equality, at the event.
“Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicized grand final,” former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott wrote on Twitter this week. “Sport is sport!”
Australia is in the midst of a mail-in ballot meant to take the pulse of its citizens on the issue of legalizing gay marriage. Abbott, who served as prime minister from September 2013 to September 2015, included a link to a petition started by a former NRL player calling on league organizers to cancel Macklemore’s performance, or at least forbid him from performing “Same Love,” which has surged up the Australian iTunes charts this week amid the controversy.
“I demand that the NRL reconsider its political position and remove LGBTIQ politics out of the awesome sport of Rugby League,” Tony Wall wrote on Change.org. “It will be very difficult to watch the NRL Grand Final with my wife and five young children as the event will be heavily politicized with a LGBTIQ anthem taking center stage.”
As of late afternoon on Thursday, nearly 13,000 people had signed the petition, which is seeking 15,000 signatures.
Macklemore, meanwhile, isn’t concerned about the kerfuffle and actually he said he sees the controversy as reason to push the issue even more.
“I’m getting a lot of tweets from angry old white dudes in Australia,” he told the Cruz Show on Wednesday. “It’s interesting times in Australia, man . . . I’m gonna go harder. I’m gonna love.”
NRL officials, meanwhile, have continued to back their choice to hire Macklemore, as well as to allow him to play “Same Love.”
“He’s playing four of his biggest hits, one of those will include that song and we’re very comfortable with that,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told Australia’s 2GB radio (via the Sydney Morning Herald).
“We’ve made it pretty clear that we’re an inclusive game,” Greenberg added (via the Daily Telegraph). “It’ll be a little hypocritical of us to have inclusiveness as one of our values and not actually deliver on it. We’ve made our position pretty clear. I don’t expect everyone to agree with that, and I understand that.”
One person who understands is Frances Abbott, the daughter of the ex-prime minister, who is against legalizing same-sex marriage in the country in addition to objecting to Macklemore’s song choice. In response to her father’s criticism of Macklemore, Frances Abbott penned an essay to Instagram noting Macklemore’s performance during one of Australia’s most-watched events “is what we need right now.”
“I still remember the first time I heard this song,” the 26-year-old fitness competitor wrote. “I was sitting in my car, about to get out to go to work . . . but stopped and sat and listened. And that same day I went and bought the album and kept it in my car and listened to it over and over and over again. I can’t think of a better song for all the hundreds of thousands of people to listen to on [Sunday].”
The NRL Grand Final will kick off at 4:30 a.m. ET.