Nine thanks ‘master at live television’ Sam Newman who continues making racial comments after ‘mutual’ split

On Friday evening, Nine News announced that AFL commentator Sam Newman would no longer appear on Nine’s TV shows, after a petition circulated earlier in the day demanding the network sack him for calling George Floyd a “piece of shit”, “crackhead”, and “pornstar”.

The decision – made “mutually and amicably” according to Nine – ends a 35-year relationship, and meant Newman lasted less than a week in the new ‘Sam’s Shed’ segment created for him on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show. But, in a statement, the network emphasised he was a “master at live television” with a “highly successful media career”, and did not reference the widely-condemned comments.

“Sam Newman has been a part of the football landscape in Melbourne for generations. He enjoyed an illustrious playing career, notching up 300 games for the Geelong Football Club,” read the statement.

The Democracy in Colour petition

“Sam parlayed his playing days into a highly successful media career. We thank Sam for his service with Nine over several decades. His contribution to The Footy Show was paramount to the enormous ratings success the show enjoyed over many years.

“Sam was a master at live television and attracted a legion of loyal fans to The Footy Show with his comedic and insightful input. We wish Sam all the best with his future endeavours.”

Responding to the news, Newman tweeted: “Let’s see how this gets reported. Can’t wait. The 9 network and I have MUTUALLY decided that, in the station’s best interests, I withdraw form [sic] appearing on their programs – forthwith.

“And for me, the last 35-odd years have been fantastic. Really!”

Newman’s comments about race have only continued since the news of his exit on Friday.

Over the weekend, he referred to COVID-19 as the “#ChineseVirus”, stood by his comments that AFL players didn’t know why they were kneeling, and told Australian-Brazilian AFL player Héritier Lumumba to “stop pulling your dick” after Lumumba said Newman is “consistent with his bigotry, unwavering with his prejudice, and unapologetic with his tone deafness”, and one of the reasons he refused to appear on The Footy Show.

“Stop pulling your dick Harry, you were never asked to come on the Footy Show. We didn’t invite losers,” Newman wrote.

Lumumba said Newman’s response is indicative of the “sexualization of anti-blackness”. “Historically and, contemporarily, white men with untreated issues formed as result of their indoctrination, have instinctually targeted the genitalia of black men. Newman’s response to my critique of his unchecked racism follows this pattern,” Lumumba tweeted.

“Samuel, if you wish to sound less like a mouthpiece for racist ideas, please refrain from mentioning the penis of a black man in ANY counter argument. It is reasonable to imagine you playing a role in the castration of black men at lynchings, if we were in the early 20th century.”

Newman’s comments about Floyd – the unarmed black man killed last month when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes – were made on his podcast, in the context of a discussion around AFL players kneeling before a game to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The protest [following Floyd’s death] was about police brutality, then it morphed into all those other things then they came out and said it’s about racism here and Aboriginals,” he said on the same episode.

The 74-year-old also commented on a tweet from NBA star LeBron James in response to the police shooting of black man Ahmaud Arbery a couple of week’s before Floyd’s death. James paid tribute to Arbery and said black people are “literally hunted”. Newman said: “That’s meant to be a responsible person who is meant to be partially educated. Why do people put up with nonsense like that?”

#StandDownSam and ‘Sam Newman’ trended on Twitter in response to the Floyd comments, and an online petition, referring to him as “one of Australia’s most prominent racists”, was set up by Democracy of Colour.

Nine colleague Jim Malo, a property writer at Domain, tweeted he was “Genuinely ashamed this clown is employed by the same company as me”. Former Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton added: “How much longer will Nine put up with this vulgar, ranting, knuckle-dragging fuckwit?”

Newman – who regularly appeared on The Footy Show before it was axed last year – has a history of making similarly inflammatory statements, and, in 1999, wore blackface on The Footy Show. In 2016, he defended Eddie McGuire’s joke about holding journalist Caroline Wilson underwater, and in 2017, he made transphobic comments about Caitlyn Jenner.

Last month, he posted a photo of the line up of women sprinters in a Doha race captioned: “Women’s 200 metres in Doha. Is there anyone who is white, that can run? Please don’t quit, Sally Pearson,” referring to the white Australian runner and gold medallist. He then posted another photo of the race referring to a white athlete as “The Lone Ranger”.

The long-time Footy Show panellist also insisted that booing levelled at AFL player Adam Goodes was not racist, but a response to his on-field behaviour. Newman prominently appeared in last year’s documentary The Final Quarter, which centred on Goodes’ treatment and led to the AFL apologising for not doing more to call out racism.


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