opinion

Four reasons we won't miss Sam Newman. And one reason we will.

“So I will not be continuing,” Sam Newman began on Thursday night’s episode of The AFL Footy Show. “It’s opportune that I end my association with this show and the [Nine] Network, on the off chance that this is final show that we do.”

Channel 9 is yet to confirm whether the program, which is in the depths of a ratings slump, will return for a 26th year in 2019. And Newman – one of its founding members – has decided to abandon his quick-sinking ship.

With his last gasp, he spoke of his detractors: “The only thing I could say is [that] I’ve probably been the most criticised and traduced person in the media in Australia for, probably, two decades. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because you are what you are. I know who I am, and I know what I am.”

After the emotional monologue, supporters inundated social media with tributes to the former Geelong star. Colleagues praised him. Fans gushed. “An absolute TV genius,” a former producer tweeted. “Icons. Both Sam and The Footy Show,” added a viewer.

It’s true that 25 years is an impressive amount of time to hold down a single gig in Australia’s notoriously insular and fickle entertainment industry. And especially so when you’ve dragged a program that’s meant to celebrate football into headlines about racism, poisonous misogyny and the objectification of women.

See while thousands will miss Sam Newman, we will not. Here are just a few of the many reasons why.

1. He presumes his female critics want to sleep with him. [He is wrong. Very wrong.]

It was International Women’s Day 2017; a powerful day to celebrate women and a day to press for change at the height of the #metoo movement.

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And there was Newman on The Footy Show, accusing one of his most vocal critics, Herald Sun writer Susie O’Brien, of masking a desire sleep with him.

“I reckon that woman gets aroused when she writes about me,” Newman said. “I am keeping her in business, I reckon she secretly wishes I would chat her up.

“I don’t think she has ever got to worry about the #MeToo movement because I don’t think that will ever visit her.”

Video by Channel 9

2. He referred to a trans woman as “it”.

In 2017, Newman, while talking about Caitlyn Jenner, strayed from his usual racist and sexist diatribe to give The Footy Show audiences a taste of transphobia as well.

“I know who he … it is,” said Newman. “Oh well, what is she? Is it a he or a she? Is it transgender, is it?”

3. He told a female colleague to “get on your knees”.

When respected journalist Rebecca Maddern joined The Footy Show in 2016,  it was hailed as a welcome injection of gravitas and equality for the flailing show. While she undoubtedly helped raise the tone, Newman couldn’t quite manage to do the same.

Here is a small selection of remarks he made about or to her that year alone:

  • “I promise you that if Gold Coast win this game, Bec will lie nude on this table.”
  • “You, come, get on your knees.”
  • “Did I detect that it’s see-through, that dress?”
  • When referencing his reported run for Lord Mayor of Melbourne: “I could make you Lady Mayoress. You could be under me.”

“[These remarks] actually constitutes workplace harassment and could even be unlawful,” Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack told the Herald Sun at the time.

Image: Channel 9.
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3. He pretended a lingerie mannequin was a female journalist, and groped it.

In 2009, Newman stapled a cut-out of sports journalist Caroline Wilson’s face on a lingerie-clad mannequin during a sketch on The Footy Show and said, "I tell you what, she's a fair piece, Caro." He then proceeded to fondle and grope the mannequin in the breast and genital area.

Wilson later described the stunt as degrading, humiliating and insulting. Newman, however, said this to news.com.au:

“What would I be apologising for?"

“This was not a gender thing, it was not meant to degrade anyone or anything. I’m yet to understand what’s insulting about putting clothes on a mannequin.”

4. Do we even need to say racism?

There was the moment in 2009 when Newman likened an Asian man to a "monkey", again on The Footy Show. Newman was reading from a newspaper clipping about a 107-year-old Malaysian woman looking for a husband, when he referenced a man that appeared in the accompanying image: "What sort of monkey would be marrying that woman? That sort of monkey right there."

When fellow panellists objected through nervous laughter, he responded, "This [show] doesn't go to Malaysia does it?". And he didn't stop there. Looking back at the image, he added, "That man is not long out of the forest."

The comments saw him punished by the media watchdog.

There was, of course, precedent. A decade earlier Newman lathered boot polish onto his skin for laughs, after St Kilda player and Noongar man Nicky Winmar refused to appear on the program.

And one reason we will miss Sam Newman:

When people say feminists are hysterical/overreacting/making shit up, it's helpful to have concrete examples with which to dispute that argument.

And Sam Newman is full it - sorry - them.

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