March 30, 2019 / 5:37 AM / 23 days ago

Australian broadcaster apologises after coin-toss jibe at amputee

MELBOURNE, March 30 (Reuters) - A prominent Australian Rules football broadcaster has apologised after drawing criticism for mocking a pre-game coin-toss by a plane crash victim ahead of a match between Sydney Swans and Adelaide Crows.

Cynthia Banham, a respected academic and Sydney Swans ambassador who had both her legs amputated after a plane crash in Indonesia in 2007, appeared to struggle as she tossed the coin while holding her walking stick before the Australian Football League (AFL) match in Sydney on Friday.

Coins are tossed in the middle of the football pitch before AFL games, with the away team’s captain calling the toss. The winning captain chooses which end his team will kick towards, taking into account weather conditions.

Veteran AFL broadcaster Eddie McGuire joked on air during Fox Footy’s pre-match coverage that people who could not toss the coin properly should be fined.

“I think we should introduce a $5,000 fine to anybody who’s tossing the coin and can’t do it properly,” McGuire said, drawing laughter from his fellow commentators covering the match.

“Every week, we have someone dropping it on their foot. Come on, toss it up properly, for goodness sake. Practise in the week, you know you’re going to do it. It can’t be that hard can it, guys?”

McGuire’s comments were condemned by the Sydney Swans and pilloried on social media.

“The Sydney Swans are incredibly disappointed by inappropriate comments made tonight by Eddie McGuire,” the Swans said in a statement.

“The comments show not only a lack of empathy, but also ignorance.”

McGuire apologised on air and later issued a statement saying he had decided to withdraw from calling Saturday’s match between Essendon Bombers and St Kilda saints in Melbourne.

“I am deeply sorry and regretful for the comments I made last night about the coin tossing system,” McGuire said on Saturday. “I should never have spoken without properly viewing the footage.

“I unreservedly apologise to Cynthia, her family and the Sydney Football Club for the pain and hurt that my comments have caused.”

Fox Sports, which owns the Fox Footy channel, described McGuire’s comments as ‘disappointing’ and also apologised.

McGuire, who is the long-serving president of the Melbourne-based AFL team Collingwood Magpies, has previously drawn criticism for a number of on-air gaffes.

In 2016, he was condemned by women’s groups for making a joke on radio about paying money to see a local female football journalist drowned in a tub of icy water.

Three years before that, McGuire apologised for suggesting on radio that former Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, an Aboriginal Australian, be used to promote the musical ‘King Kong’.

The gaffe occurred just days after Goodes had been racially abused during a game by a young Collingwood fan in the terraces. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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