Anthony Mundine, 42, has been described as “the most polarising athlete in Australian sports history.”
Born in Sydney’s inner west to two Indigenous parents, Mundine excelled at rugby league, before being signed with the St. George Dragons at 18 years old. By 2000, Mundine was the highest paid player in the NRL, at which point he made the decision to leave rugby league, and pursue professional boxing – a sport his father had excelled at. Mundine believes his achievements across both sports qualifies him as Australia’s best all-round sportsman.
Perhaps his assessment isn’t far off.
It is, however, his comments outside the boxing ring that have attracted persistent criticism.
On Sunday night, nine Australian celebrities entered the South African jungle for the fourth season of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!.
It has since been announced that on Monday night, Mundine will be entering as an intruder. His inclusion in the cast has been met with some resistance, given some of his highly-contentious opinions over the last two decades.
These are the most significant controversies that have underpinned Mundine’s career.
October, 2001: September 11 comments.
In 1999, at 24 years old, Mundine converted to Islam.
Following the World Trade Centre attacks on September 11, 201, Mundine said, “They call it an act of terrorism, but if you can understand religion, and our [Islam] way of life, it’s not about terrorism. It’s about fighting for God’s law, and America’s brought it upon themselves.”
If Mundine starts bashing gays or offering distasteful takes on 9/11 I’m out. That’s not light entertainment or escapism. #imACelebrityAU
— Matthew Denby (@MrMattDenby) January 28, 2018
His comments made international headlines, making him incredibly unpopular during a 2012 trip to the United States.
After being ruthlessly heckled at Floyd Mayweather’s gym, Mundine issued a public apology, stating, “No good ever comes out of war, only misery. It exposes innocent lives to danger unnecessarily.
“I am also sorry that what I said was manipulated out of context by the media and journos doing their best to tarnish my image and trying to portray me as a bad human being rather than associate the Mundine name with peace, charity, unity and love.”
November, 2013: Mundine tweets “homosexuality not in our culture.”
While watching Redfern Now, the ABC television series that tells contemporary stories of Indigenous lives, Mundine posted a Facebook status arguing that Aboriginal culture and homosexuality were incompatible.
“Watching redfern now & they promoting homosexuality!” he wrote. “(Like it’s ok in our culture) that ain’t in our culture & our ancestors would have been there [sic] head for it! Like my dad told me GOD made ADAM & EVE not Adam & Steve.”
LISTEN: Monique Bowley puts forward the case that gruesome sporting injuries shouldn’t be shown on TV. Post continues after.
April, 2017: Anthony Mundine say it’s OK to hit women. A little bit.
Appearing on Mark Latham’s YouTube show, Outsiders, Mundine was asked to comment on Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s assertion that Islam was “the most feminist religion.”
In the segment, Latham quoted a verse from the Quran regarding women’s subservience to men, which stated, “for women who might disobey, it’s recommended to admonish them, leave them alone in their sleeping places and then beat them.”
Latham put to Mundine, “That doesn’t sound very feminist.”
Mundine responded, “It’s not a term [that refers to] to beat [but] as to hit.”
He continued, “In the Quran, you know what a beating is? You know the Arab toothbrush? Little stick. That is a beating. But you cannot harm the lady, cause any injury or any bruising,” while demonstrating a light tap to Latham’s arm.
But the words stuck.
He later published a Facebook status, arguing that the comments were taken out of context, and he does not at all condone violence.
January, 2018: Polyamory, gay marriage, contraception and abortion.
Prior to entering the jungle, Mundine spoke to The Daily Telegraph, sharing his views on a number of divisive subjects.
I was really looking forward to this season of I’m A Celebrity… but I just can’t support anything that involves the consistently gross Anthony Mundine. pic.twitter.com/S0IQaWJH1R
— Shannon Molloy (@sleemol) January 28, 2018
The 42-year-old said that given his Islamic faith, “You can have up to four wives done justly, and the same in Aboriginal culture, we are allowed to have more than one wife.”
He added that if he was married to more than one woman, “I wouldn’t tell anybody, that is my business.”
It has been reported that Mundine has seven children to four different women.
He then moved onto the subject of gay marriage, commenting: “I was always taught that two genders together is natural; it’s what’s meant to be. Male and male, or female and female, is just confusing to society.”
Mundine said that it is not the gay ‘individual’ he has a problem with, and one of his best friends lives as a gay man.
“People mistake my confidence for arrogance. I’m actually quite a shy, humble person. I treat people the way I want to be treated, and I hope Australians get to see that side of me in the jungle.” – Anthony Mundine.
LAUGH MY GAY ARSE OFF AND SHAKE MY GAY HEAD.
— Casey Conway (@caseyconway_) January 28, 2018
“That’s their prerogative, all I can do is warn them,” he explained. “I always tell my gay friend, ‘You’ve got to find a lady … god will judge you, not me.
“For me the creator, Allah, who created us… made it [homosexuality] forbidden. That is what the creator has set, these are his perimeters, not mine, and I follow them.”
Mundine also holds conservative views about contraception and abortion. He told The Daily Telegraph: “God gives life. It is a blessing, some people can’t even have kids so it is a blessing just to receive life so that is a big no-no to me.”
He added that the Australian media has worked hard to make him out “to be a villain,” and they will see a very different man in the jungle.
As of Monday night, we’ll just have to see.