The indigenous activist who led the successful campaign to rename Coon cheese because he claims his brand is racist has a new goal in mind – a top-class AFL club.
Stephen Hagan has asked Carlton Football Club to change the tune of its club song to call it « one of the most racist songs of all time ».
But Carlton’s management have said they have no plans to compose a new song, and the lyrics « have effectively removed the racist connotations of the original song ».
Dr. Hagan said the club told him that several local Carlton players, past and present, had supported the club’s stance, which made him « absolutely shocked ».
When Carlton beats the Gold Coast Suns at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, players and supporters will celebrate with the chant We are the Navy Blues.
The almost hundred-year-old song is said to have been written around 1929 by Agnes Wright and her cousin Irene McEldrew, who ran a guesthouse in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn, where Carlton players lived.
The texts, which mostly revolve around Carlton’s opportunities to win, are not offensive, said Dr. Hagan told news.com.us.
Ms. Wright and Ms. McEldrew wrote the words to the melody of Lily of Laguna, a song by the English composer Leslie Stuart.
The original texts concern a black man who longs for an Indian woman. It was often done on black face.
Lily of Laguna contains multiple arcs and was viewed as so racist that by the 1940s popular singers of the day like Bing Crosby sang a new version cut off from its most disturbing lines.
« The song is one of the most racist of all time with the opening verse including the N word and ‘Coon’ and Carlton took that music and made it popular, » said Dr. Hagan.
« Lily of Laguna is said to be one of the greatest Coon songs of all time, » he added.
« Coon Song » was a genre of music popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that caricatured black people.
Dr. Hagan said Carlton should keep the words, but compose a completely new melody that doesn’t go back to Lily of Laguna.
« The words used in the Carlton theme song are not racist, there is no need to change them.
« But surely it wouldn’t be too annoying for Carlton to commission an original musical arrangement without changing a single word of the team song? »
Below is a rendition of the original song as well as the current Carlton song so you can compare them. If you don’t want to hear racist lyrics, it is best not to hit the play button on the original version.
A Carlton spokesman told news.com.au that the club had long been aware of the troubled history of the melody. However, it has been questioned whether the song that inspired Ms. Wright and Ms. McEldrew was even the version with the racist lyrics.
« The lyrics to the original song were changed 80 years ago to erase the racial origins. This is around the time the club first wrote their lyrics on the subject. »
In the statement, the club said that the lyrics of the Carlton theme song « are in no way similar to the words used in the song by Lily of Laguna ».
« While writing the lyrics for the Carlton Football Club title, the songwriters effectively removed the racist connotations from the original song.
« The lyrics of Lily of Laguna are not relevant to the lyrics written in good faith for the club. »
Carlton said the club strives to provide a « culturally safe environment » for players, staff, members and supporters.
« We will continue to consult and listen to indigenous elders and key advisors, including stakeholders, as we have already done in relation to this particular discussion, in order to maintain and improve our culturally safe environment. »
Dr. Hagan not only triumphed after many years when he tried to rename Coon cheese, but also carried out a long-term campaign to rename the ES stand « N **** r » Brown in a stadium in Toowoomba.
« It took me 10 years to change the name of the stand and now I’m doing the same for another sports club. »
Dr. Hagan said Carlton told him his decision not to change the tune was based in part on feedback from his Native American Reconciliation Action Plan, which included several players. Carlton confirmed that Eddie Betts was one of the players consulted.
« I am absolutely shocked that they would defend the racist theme song music instead of fighting the melody’s clearly racist origins, » said Dr. Hagan.
« It doesn’t make the song any less racist that a few Aboriginal players who are very loyal to the club are defending it. »
When asked if the song needed to be changed as few supporters or players would realize the tune was taken from an 1898 song with racist lyrics, Dr. Hagan that it doesn’t matter.
« How would the Jews feel if Collingwood’s song was based on propaganda music by the Hitler Youth? »
In January, Canadian Saputo Dairy, the current owners of Coon cheese, announced that it would change the brand to Cheer by mid-2021.
But dr. Hagan, along with others, including comedian Josh Thomas, had argued that the racial fraud was far better known than the cheese maker, and the brand should be changed.
Lino Saputo, Chairman and CEO of Saputo, said it was a « challenging » decision to rename as Coon is such a well-known brand in Australia.
« It was important for us to understand that other consumers didn’t like the name, » he said.
Mr Hagan also supported a recent move by Lake Macquarie Council on the central New South Wales coast to change the name to Coon Island.
The small island has indeed been linked to racial fraud. The council has approved a name change but has yet to decide what this night will look like.
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