The primer minister, Scott Morrison, has labelled a Cricket Australia initiative to promote inclusivity on 26 January as “pretty ordinary”.
The game’s governing body on Wednesday announced it would drop references to “Australia Day” in promotional material for Big Bash League games in the lead-up to the date considered by some as a day of mourning.
Three BBL clubs will also wear Indigenous jerseys in a bid to normalise conversations over the date’s history and create a “safe and inclusive environment for everybody”.
But Morrison on Thursday said he disagreed with the push.
“I think a bit more focus on cricket, and a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia,” he told radio 4RO. “I think that’s pretty ordinary – that’s what they’re putting on their press releases – that would be my view.”
The Sydney Thunder, Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Renegades will all wear their special strips in matches on 23, 25 and 26 January. A barefoot circle, Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony will also take place before some games, with CA leading the initiative backed by the clubs.
The moves form part of several recommendations by the sport’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee, with three games to be played on 26 January.
“They thought it was pretty important to not remove cultural elements we have celebrated all season on a day like that,” Cricket Australia’s diversity and inclusion manager Adam Cassidy told AAP. “Obviously it’s a bit of a challenge when you have matches being played on a day of mourning for a lot of people.”
CA are well aware the issue is a sensitive one and are desperate for it not to prove divisive, but want to encourage talk about the issue.
“When you are a business operating under a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan, it does come with responsibility and accountability to lead on key reconciliation issues,” Cassidy said. “In an ideal world what we’re trying to do is create a safe and inclusive environment for everybody.”
Earlier this year, the NRL backflipped on a decision not to play the national anthem during the State of Origin series following an intervention from Morrison, who spoke with Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter V’landys.
Morrison’s government has since changed the words of the anthem, removing a reference to the country being “young and free”, amid concerns the existing wording overlooks the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that stretches back tens of thousands of years.
Indigenous jerseys have been worn across different sports for some time, but it is the first time they will be used over the Australia Day period. The move has been firmly approved by the game’s players, with Sydney Thunder’s Brendan Doggett championing the cause through his own Indigenous history.
“I hate conflict. So I am of the opinion if we can all merge forward together that’s ideal,” Doggett said. “The way we’re going to do that is by starting conversations and talking about it and acknowledging the history of what’s happened. If we wear the kit and hopefully even start one conversation then that is a win.”
The Thunder have long referred to the public holiday as the January long weekend and have been a leader in multicultural initiatives through the Thunder Cup.