Despite copping a tsunami of backlash on Friday, Perth’s Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas has doubled down on his “cringeworthy” gesture.
Perth’s Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas has doubled down on his “cringeworthy” gesture of goodwill for Saturday’s highly-anticipated AFL Grand Final, saying the “intention is pure”.
On Friday, the high profile Channel 7 presenter said he wanted to see the crowd of 60,000 at Optus Stadium stand and applaud in a supposedly kind act towards the rest of the country doing it tough with Covid-19 restrictions.
Zempilas posted on Twitter the crowd was being asked to applaud for one minute during the first quarter to show their fellow Australians the state was behind their compatriots in places like Victoria and NSW as they continue to deal with lockdowns.
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“(At) 20.21 in the first quarter, we’re asking everyone in the stadium to stand for one minute and applaud — a nod to our friends around the country who are doing it tough & to let them know we’re with them in this difficult time,” Zempilas tweeted to his 20,000 followers. “Let’s do it WA.”
The tweet prompted an immediate backlash from fans, with many of the hundreds of comments laughing off the proposal.
An overwhelming amount of replies to 7AFL’s Twitter post on the same subject were also completely against the idea.
Later that day, Zempilas appeared on Channel 9’s Footy Show Grand Final Eve Telethon to further promote the idea.
When asked if the gesture was still going ahead, Zempilas responded: “I think we are. I realise it has been received in a mixed way, but let me tell you, the intention is pure.
“The intention was just to show everybody around the country that we‘re thinking of them, that we’re with them, we know they’re not doing it as well as we are over here, and if we can lend a hand and lend some support, that is all. Nothing more complicated than that.
“But we’re thinking of everybody in Victoria. It’s a difficult time we know, and we’re going to put on a special grand final.
“Paul Hayes rang me last night and said, ‘Why don‘t we do something?’ And I said, ‘All right, I’ll float it on the radio.’
“We did that on Triple M this morning, people said, ‘Why don’t we all stand up at 20 minutes and 21 seconds in the first quarter?’ It was an organic idea. It is just stand politely applaud, show our support, 60,000 Western Australians, to say to everybody around the country, we’re thinking of you. We’re with you. We know you’re doing it tough. We hope you’re putting on a great show for you. Nothing more complicated than that.”
On Friday, sports reporter Catherine Murphy posted in response to Zempilas’ tweet: “Please. God. No. Can we just stop the week. #NoBasilNo.”
Radio announcer Dave Higgins also blasted the proposal: “It truly is the most tone deaf idea I have heard of. I bet the people voting yes are from WA. Hearts in the right place, but please, don’t do this. It’s cringeworthy.”
Western Australia is hosting the Grand Final for the first time as a result of the AFL being forced to move the game from its traditional MCG venue for the second consecutive year as a result of the pandemic.
Perth’s Optus Stadium will feature a festival-like atmosphere in the lead up to Saturday night’s decider between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons.
The official pre-match festivities begin from 6.15pm, including the pre-match entertainment and the performance of the Welcome to Country and national anthem.
The AFL last week announced the line-up for the match day entertainment, including a half time performance from Perth-based alternative rock group Birds of Tokyo alongside the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
This year’s pre-match entertainment is loaded with West Australian talent, including John Butler, Eskimo Joe, Abbe May, indie phenom Stella Donnelly, Men at Work’s Colin Hay and Young Australian of the Year Baker Boy.
The Waifs’ Donna Simpson and Vikki Thorn and Indigenous duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse will also feature.
The Demons are hoping to snap a record 57-year premiership drought while the Bulldogs are hoping to replicate their fairytale 2016 run to the premiership from outside the top four.