opinion

Scott Cummings and Dane Swan's podcast was cancelled. They responded in two very different ways.

Content warning: This post discusses violence against women and may be triggering for some readers. 

Six weeks ago, Scott Cummings and Dane Swan had one of Australia’s most popular podcasts.

Hump Day with Scotty and Swanny was a regular in the top 20, with the two former AFL players discussing what they summarised as “footy and life”. The show was co-hosted by Ralph Horowitz, a former producer of The AFL Footy Show, and over 22 episodes, they touched on topics from what makes a good coach to what it’s really like being on a reality TV show.

But in early July, the hosts announced they wouldn’t be making any more episodes.

A tweet from the show’s account confirmed the show was over. “It was fun while it lasted,” the post read.

Cummings had lost his radio role with 3AW Football, after comments made on the podcast two weeks earlier.

“Although the comments were never aired on 3AW, we believe there is no platform appropriate for such remarks,” read a statement from 3AW. “Sexual assault is never a laughing matter. Jokes about sexual assault are never OK.”

He was also sacked from the TV show Footy WA, produced by Crocmedia.

“The comments made on Scott and Dane’s personal podcast are abhorrent, and completely inconsistent with our businesses values and respect for women and standing up against sexual abuse in society,” Crocmedia CEO Craig Hutchison told the Herald Sun.

Those “abhorrent” comments were made in the context of a discussion on the show about sex terms, which involved the three men looking up their names, paired with the word ‘dirty,’ on the website Urban Dictionary.

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On the June 18 podcast, Cummings said, “A dirty Ralph… occurs when you try and sneak up behind a girl who is on all fours throwing up”.

“That’s not too bad,” Swan replied.

Cummings went on to describe a “dirty Dane”, reading the definition from the website: “After a frustrating evening involving a lack of sexual activity a man is forced to pleasure himself through masturbation while the woman sleeps. He retaliates at the unwilling woman by spreading his love on her face, thereby causing her to wake up and mumble like a Danish person.”

All three laughed.

Then came the definition of a “dirty Scottie”, which apparently refers to “having sex with a fat woman in a pit of mud”.

Domestic violence groups were vocal about the potential consequences of language that trivialises violence against women.

Watch: Women and violence, the hidden numbers. Post continues after video. 

Alison MacDonald, the acting CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, told the Herald Sun that comments like Cummings’ could lead to more serious issues when they went unchecked.

“Flippant comments degrading women are often dismissed as trivial, harmless and even funny,” she said. “However, the evidence tells us that these attitudes contribute towards the social conditions that allow family violence and violence against women to continue unabated.”

So 3AW responded, and with Cummings’ sacking, Hump Day with Scotty and Swanny was over.

**

It can’t be easy to be sacked, no matter the reason. To work on a project like a podcast with a loyal audience and have it cancelled because of a conversation you thought was a joke must be confusing, frustrating, and humiliating.

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But in the wake of the cancellation, Scott Cummings and Dane Swan had a choice in how to respond.

While Cummings immediately apologised for his “disrespectful and wrong” comments, Swan stood by the content of the podcast.

“Wow, just wow,” he wrote. “The carry on about a stupid podcast and the things people are trying to attach to it is one of the most absurd things I’ve heard. If ya didn’t like it ya didn’t have to f**king listen to it.”

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Then, this week, Cummings was interviewed on Fox Footy’s Open Mike about the fall out from the controversy. He admitted he was “disappointed” in himself for not seeing at the time that his comments were demeaning.

“This is the thing I’m disappointed about… because I know what’s in my head and I know what’s in Swanny’s and I know what’s in Ralphy’s (producer Ralph Horowitz). I know that we meant no harm. Our intention was no harm at all and we’re laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of things,” he said.

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“But when I saw it in writing … I felt crook in the guts. Because when you’re saying something and you know it’s in your head you’re thinking ‘oh that’s okay, I didn’t mean anything bad by that.’

“And when I saw it in the paper — not the first couple of articles, that were just, that set it all off — but one where we actually got quoted correctly, I felt sick. I read it and I just went ‘oh my god, that sounds just terrible.’ And I was embarrassed and ashamed.

“And since that point I’ve had to educate myself on the issue.”

Cummings said he found it “abhorrent” to be “linked to domestic violence or sexual assault,” when he, like a vast majority of other men, finds it “so violent and so cowardly to assault women in any way whether it’s physical violence or sexual violence, or verbally, or financially, it’s horrible”.

“I went and met with Domestic Violence Victoria. I met with Our Watch and I’ve met with White Ribbon. And I’ve just started a course with White Ribbon, finished the first part of that course learning about the numbers and the statistics,” he told Open Mike.

scott-cummings
Scott Cummings on Open Mike. Image via Fox Sports.

“I’m doing these things not because I want to make people believe that I’m doing my best — I wanna know … I was clearly ignorant on the issues, so I’m doing something about it."

The controversy affected his family, and his kids. Cummings was asked to step down from coaching his son's Under-12s footy team because of the public backlash against him.

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"It probably hurt me the most because I love those little blokes," he said.

Dane Swan has also been in the media this week. He and Ralph Horowitz have launched a new podcast, Hump Day with Swanny and Friends, along with TV presenter Samantha Riches. Their first episode featured Sam Newman, a former AFL player and host of The AFL Footy Show, who routinely makes headlines for comments that demean and disrespect women.

On Australia Day last year, when asked on The Footy Show about his 'nemesis' - a journalist from the Herald Sun - Newman said, “I reckon that woman gets aroused when she writes about me. 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,” he said. “She's delusional.”

So it would appear Newman is one of the 'friends' referred to in the title of Dane Swan's new podcast. Launched less than two months after his last one ended because of offensive language.

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Here, we have two men who found themselves in the midst of the same controversy.

One apologised, unreservedly, and has made a sustained effort to change. The other reacted with anger, choosing to entirely dismiss any criticism against him, and double down on his belief that he should be able to say whatever he likes without interrogation.

As humans, we're allowed to make mistakes. We're allowed to say and do the wrong thing. We all do it, all the time.

It's how we respond to those mistakes that matters.

Two men. One controversy. Two markedly different responses.

And two people who unequivocally don't belong in the same category.

For more from Clare Stephens, you can follow her on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

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