After a week where Tony Abbott forced a debate about the politicisation of sport, the NRL went all-in at the grand final in its support for the ‘Yes’ same-sex marriage campaign.
US artist Macklemore performed his 2012 hit Same Love under rainbow smoke with a scoreboard message with the NRL logo proclaiming: “We stand for equality”.
The decision to feature Macklemore was criticised by Mr Abbott, but his intervention appeared to have turned into another costly own goal for the ‘No’ campaign, with the song rocketing back to the top of the Australian download charts.
— NRL (@NRL) October 1, 2017
Last week a critical tweet from independent MP Cory Bernardi saw $300,000 donated to an Adelaide school’s ‘Do it in a Dress’ fundraiser.
Macklemore performed Same Love about 15 minutes into his set of greatest hits – including Can’t Hold Us, Thrift Shop and Downtown – with fans cheering and some holding their hands up in the shape of a heart.
At the end of his performance he shouted “equality for all” with rainbow-coloured fireworks exploding above the stage and monitors inside the stadium showing the words “equality” and “inclusiveness”.
On the Channel Nine television broadcast viewers were immediately shown a new ad for the ‘No’ campaign.
— Chris Kennedy (@CKennedy80) October 1, 2017
On social media there was overwhelming support for the performance, with some on Twitter indicating the former PM’s intervention had drawn even more attention to the Same Love message.
I want to personally thank Tony Abbott for raising concerns about this performance. I wouldn't have watched otherwise. Great own goal. 🌈
— Peter van Onselen (@vanOnselenP) October 1, 2017
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) October 1, 2017
— Julius Flywheel (@JuliusFlywheel) October 1, 2017
In recent days, Mr Abbott and MP Bob Katter were among the conservative politicians who were up in arms over the show.
Mr Abbott had argued “footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final” as Australians continue to vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
Neither he nor Mr Katter have yet commented on social media about the performance.
On Saturday, Macklemore pledged to donate the recent Australian earnings of the single to the ‘Yes’ campaign.
Before arriving in Australia the rapper had also told a Los Angeles radio station that he’d been “getting a lot of tweets from angry old white dudes in Australia”.
When the song, written during the US same-sex marriage debate, hit No.1 on iTunes in Australia on Thursday night, the singer said it was a sign “love is winning”.
Soon after its release in 2013, Same Love hit the top 40 in the United States, becoming one of the first pro-gay marriage songs to make it into the charts.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – a supporter of the ‘Yes’ campaign – had welcomed the Macklemore performance saying it showed free speech in action.
“Trying to censor the playlist at the half-time entertainment at the grand final is not consistent with taking a liberal approach to free speech,” Mr Turnbull said.