Tony Abbott cannot take a trick.
First, Abbott condemned the NRL for “politicising” sport — for having US hip hop performer Macklemore as its pre-show entertainment for the October 1 grand final. But far from the NRL backing down, all the ex-PM achieved was sending Macklemore’s 2013 song in support of marriage equality “Same Love” to number 1 on iTunes — four years after it originally hit number 1 on the ARIA charts.
For his part, Macklemore publicly declared he would only “go harder” when singing the song — along with gay singer Mary Lambert who sings on the track and joined him on stage at ANZ stadium. He also said all the proceeds from the spike in “Same Love” sales would be donated to the marriage equality campaign in Australia.
Then Abbott suggested that, instead, the NRL should replace Macklemore with an Australian act like Savage Garden — apparently entirely unaware that Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes married his same-sex partner in California. In response, Hayes tweeted that he “was not a fan” of Abbott’s.
On the day, the complaints of Abbott and other bigots only made the song’s performance even more poignant. It came four songs into Macklemore’s five-song set.
With screens declaring the NRL’s support for equality and inclusiveness, thousands in the crowd went crazy, waving rainbow flags or making heart signs with their hands. As words of love and respect came from the stage, rainbow-coloured fireworks went off.
It was hard to imagine a more dramatic or passionate statement on such a major stage, with 80,000 people in the crowd watching the biggest game in what is probably the most hyper-masculine sporting code in the country.
It is not surprising to read Fairfax journalist Peter Fitzsimmons note that Ian Roberts — a retired NRL player who came out late in his career and remains the only professional footballer in any code to come out — openly wept while holding his partner’s hand, as he watched on in the stadium.
It was one more own goal by the bigots — investing what would have been a huge moment into one more profound than anyone could have dreamt.