Nine urged to ‘not profit from racism’ and sack Sam Newman over George Floyd comments

During a discussion about AFL players kneeling before a game in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on his podcast, Sam Newman has called George Floyd – the unarmed black man who was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer kneeling on his neck – a “piece of shit”, “crackhead”, and “pornstar”.

In response, #StandDownSam and ‘Sam Newman’ have trended on Twitter, and an online petition directed at Nine has been circulated. The petition, which refers to Newman as “one of Australia’s most prominent racists”, calls on the network to stand down the 74-year-old less than a week after he returned to screens on Nine’s The Sunday Footy Show,  in a new weekly segment called ‘Sam’s Shed’.

The petition

“George Floyd … is piece of shit,” Newman said on his podcast, You Cannot Be Serious. “He has been in jail five times, he held up a pregnant black woman with a knife, he’s a drug addict, he’s a crackhead and he’s a pornstar.

“He’s dead because of the police brutality and it never should have happened. But I am telling you who George Floyd is, now they’ve made a monument about him and he’s a piece of shit.”

Newman went on to say that AFL players don’t know “why they’re kneeling at this stage”.

“The players wouldn’t have knelt if George Floyd hadn’t been suffocated by a disgraceful act by the American police,” he said. “The protest 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.”

LeBron James – who regularly uses his platform as a high profile NBA player to speak out about racism and social issues – was also the target of Newman’s criticism because of a tweet posted last month about the police shooting of black man Ahmaud Arbery. James said black people are “literally hunted” when “we step foot outside the comfort of our homes”.

“This is LeBron James’ statement, this is what you’re dealing with, this is how you divide people,” Newman said.

“Now what sort of irresponsible nonsense is that and how does that unite people? That does more to drive a wedge between people, that divides people.

“That’s meant to be a responsible person who is meant to be partially educated. Why do people put up with nonsense like that?”

Newman’s comments have attracted widespread condemnation. Fellow Nine employee, Jim Malo, a property writer for Domain, tweeted: “Genuinely ashamed this clown is employed by the same company as me”, while former Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton said: “How much longer will Nine put up with this vulgar, ranting, knuckle-dragging fuckwit?”

Mumbrella approached Nine for comment.

“In pursuit of ratings and profit during a shortened footy season, Channel Nine is banking on racism to make back their advertising bucks. And by doing so, Channel Nine has made itself complicit in fuelling hatred and violence,” reads the petition, which demands that the network “must not profit from racism, [and] remove Newman”.

“Newman’s hate speech normalises bigotry and emboldens those who seek to do harm to Black people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Muslim people, and others.”

Newman has a history of making controversial comments concerning race. Last month, the former AFL player and long-time Footy Show panellist attracted criticism for other comments made on Twitter, in which 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 proceeded to post another photo of the Doha race referring to a white athlete as “The Lone Ranger”.

Newman has also insisted that booing levelled at AFL player Adam Goodes was not racist, but in response to his behaviour on-field. He 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.

In response to George Floyd’s death, media companies around the world have been forced to reckon with allegations of racism and toxic cultures. In the US, the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has led to the resignations of editors from The New York Times, Man Repeller, Refinery29 and Bon Appetit.

Locally, News Corp has been admonished for publishing a column by Peter Gleeson that appeared in The Sunday Telegraph last weekend and featured a racial slur. He wrote: “the greatest danger to aboriginals and n*groes is themselves”.

And Nine itself has already faced intense criticism – both internal and external – regarding its reporting of Indigenous issues. The Age was forced to issue two separate apologies over a front-page story that made an unsubstantiated allegation that Black Lives Matters protesters were planning violence, and an incorrect editorial claiming Australia doesn’t have a history of slavery.

The incidents spurred almost 70 journalists to sign a letter sent to Nine executives last weekend expressing concern that the newspaper’s “proud reputation and independence” was at risk, due to pressure “to produce particular angles”. Yesterday, less than a week after the letter, it was announced that the masthead’s editor, Alex Lavelle, would depart after 20 years’ with the title and four as editor.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.