Bogut: ‘P*** off the Union Jack’
Andrew Bogut has been belting out the national anthem since the 2004 Athens Olympics. He will do it again at the Tokyo Games.
While he agrees Advance Australia Fair may benefit from some astute editing in the opening paragraph, much like this story, he's more concerned with what's missing from the Australian flag.
There's not so much as an indigenous dot on it, of course, and Bogut thinks the national banner should be replaced altogether.
"We can piss off the Union Jack, for starters," he grins.
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Let's get the context right. Bogut is as passionate about his country as any athlete we have. He's a giant of Australian sport in more ways than one. Sharp as a tack. Articulate. Well-versed in political and social issues. Independent, outspoken and unbiased.
He will clear his throat and warble the anthem in Tokyo, and whack the flag around his shoulders, because in those heady green-and-gold moments, when he's representing those of us back home, they're his only traditional means to celebrating our nationality.
But if we're talking about improvements that can make the anthem and/or flag a freshly proper illustration of who we are in Australia, it's the flag he views as the most outdated and inappropriate.
"Tweaking a few lines of the anthem? I have no issue with that," the three-time Olympian says.
"I'm not against recognising the people who feel like it's segregating parts of the community, the indigenous community, and if it's not a song they feel they can sing as it is now.
"As far as changing the whole anthem, or having a completely new one, probably not. I think we have to be careful with how far we go with change. What I'm all for is a new flag.
"Having an indigenous component to our flag part is important, in my eyes. I'd definitely support that."
Bogut has intimate knowledge of the volatile American sporting scene via his 15 top-shelf years in the NBA but taking a knee, Colin Kaepernick-style, is nowhere on his radar.
"It's a tough debate," he says. "Even if I was strongly against the anthem, I still wouldn't kneel. I think standing for your anthem and for another country's anthem is not so much to show that you're for what that nation has done previously, but more for the respect of the people there now.
"If we go to Japan, for example, when we hear their anthem, we should all stand. It's a way to respect them as human beings. I'm not a fan of boycotting anthems in any way - but I also think people are well within their rights to do so."
Bogut's parents, Michael and Anna, emigrated from Croatia to Australia in the 1970s. He was born in Melbourne in 1984.
Australia has been good to him, and he has been good to it. But it has not always been kind. "People don't like hearing this from me but I received a lot of racism growing up," Bogut says. "You're a wog and all that sort of bullshit. Much worse. You have no idea what my real story was. Racial epithets at me, my family.
"My family was looked at as being lesser because we were a European family. I received a lot of it but to this day I respect my country. It's a fantastic country that we're very lucky to be part of it.
"There's areas where we can get better but I'll always respect Australia enough to stand for the national anthem. I think you should always sing it.
"You can still fight your fight. You can still say what you really think of it. I might not be right, but that's how I see it. Like most political things, you're going to get two sides to the argument. You're going to get people fired up about it."
Bogut's Sydney Kings are 0-1 against the Perth Wildcats in the best-of-five NBL grand final series. Game two is at Perth Stadium on Friday night. The 35-year-old Bogut will be a linchpin of the Boomers' attempt to win their first Olympic medal at Tokyo … right after the entrees are played before every match at the Saitama Super Arena.
"Our history before the First Fleet should be celebrated," Bogut says.
"I definitely agree with that. There's no doubt in my mind it should be celebrated in our country's flag. Changing that would be a step in the right direction.
"We can see in America now, with statues being removed of people who had a questionable history, it's a complicated thing. You're never going to leave everyone happy. That's the realm of politics and social debate.
"There's always someone who thinks they're getting the raw deal. But if you want my opinion, I'll give it to you. I wouldn't mind some changes here and there to the anthem. And I really wouldn't mind a new Australian flag."