UPDATE: Canberra-born tennis star Nick Kyrgios has called former swimmer Dawn Fraser a racist after she suggested the tennis star should “go back to where [his] parents came from”.
The Olympic swimming gold medallist and former Australian of the Year has “unreservedly apologised” for her TV comments about eight hours later.
Kyrgios was eliminated from Wimbledon in the fourth round on Monday night, beaten in four sets by Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
But it was his behaviour during the third game of the second set that created the chief talking point.
Kyrgios was accused of not giving his best effort, or “tanking”, after appearing to make no effort to return Gasquet’s serve.
Former swimmer Fraser, who won four Olympic gold medals, berated Kyrgios on The Today Show.
“It’s absolutely disgusting. I am so shocked to think that he went out there to play and he tanked … that’s terrible,” Fraser said, before suggesting Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic “go back where their parents came from”.
“They should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country, a great country of ours,” Fraser continued.
“If they don’t like it, go back to where their fathers or their parents came from. We don’t need them here in this country if they act like that.”
Later, Fraser tried to clarify her comments.
“I don’t think I created a storm, I think the storm was created before me,” Fraser told Fairfax.
“I’m not a racist person, if you take it that way then I’m sorry that you take it that way, but I’m not racist at all.
“I said, ‘If they don’t want to be Australians then maybe they should go back to the country where their parents come from’. That’s not being racist.
“I can see it being interpreted that way … but it wasn’t intended that way.
“I said they were not good Australians by behaving the way they are on court. Do you think they are?
“He’s just bad mannered; he’s just a bad sport.”
Fraser finally apologises
After sparking national criticism at 8.48am, Fraser released her second statement to clarify her words at about 5pm.
Friends of Nick Kyrgios sent an avalanche of support to his family, his brother Christos said.
“I’d like to think we’re as Australian as anyone else here and Nick always wants to represent Australia in Davis Cup … then to hear some crap like that come out of someone who’s meant to be a role model of Australia,” Christos said.
“It’s horrible. I took it pretty personally myself and what immediately came to mind was my parents obviously both came to Australia [from overseas], and their parents as well.”
Fraser apologised ‘unreservedly’, admitting that her message was “not delivered as articulately as it could have been”.
“I want to unreservedly apologise for any comments that I made this morning which may have caused offence to my fellow Australians including Nick and his family,” she said in a statement.
“The live-to-air clip was part of a larger un-broadcasted interview, however this does not condone what was said.
“Australians have a rich sporting heritage made up of individuals from a variety of different countries of origin.
“My intended message, which was not delivered as articulately as it could have been, was on a purely sporting level rather than meant as an attack on Nick’s ethnicity.
“Nick’s representing Australia and I want to see him representing Australian tennis in the best possible light.
“Representing your country is the highest accolade for any athlete and being selected for Australia is both a privilege and an honour.
“Not only do you represent yourself, your team, your fans and your family but you are representing the heritage of the competition and acting as a role model for young Australians.”
Watch Fraser’s comments on Sunrise below
Kyrgios’ father was born in Greece and his mother in Malaysia.
He responded to the comments on Facebook and called Fraser “blatantly racist”, in a comment that also indicated he was frustrated with the coverage his Wimbledon performances generated.