A banner with the same messages Usman Khawaja had written on his shoes was removed by security during the first Test between Australia and Pakistan at Optus Stadium.
The ICC banned Khawaja from wearing shoes with the words “All lives are equal” and “Freedom is a human right” on the field before the game.
The experienced opener wanted to convey the messages amid the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Instead, he wore a black bracelet and taped over the writing on his shoes.
The issue resurfaced on Sunday when a guest who displayed a banner with the same words attracted the attention of security forces in Perth. The banner, more than five meters long, was hung over the railing on the fifth level at the south end of the venue.
The patron attracted further attention by chanting pro-Palestinian slogans, prompting security forces to quickly unfurl the banner and escort the man out of the stadium. Other people were also escorted from the venue.
“A sign was removed because it breached Cricket Australia’s terms and conditions,” said a statement from Optus Stadium. “Some guests were removed because of anti-social behavior, not because of the sign.”
Last summer, during Australia’s Test match against the West Indies at Optus Stadium, a banner reading “Justice for JL” was removed by security guards. A group of young fans had unfurled the banner in support of Justin Langer, who resigned as Australia coach after being offered just a six-month contract extension.
This time the situation was far more serious given the enormous loss of life in the Middle East. On the eve of the Test against Pakistan, Khawaja took to social media to explain why he chose to speak about the innocent loss of life.
“This is close to my heart,” Khawaja said on social media. “When I see thousands of innocent children dying without consequences or remorse, I picture my two girls. What if they were? No one chooses where they are born.”
Todd Greenberg, chief executive of the Australian Cricketers’ Association, said Khawaja had handled the controversy surrounding his shoes professionally and maturely. He said the ACA would support Khawaja’s bid to get ICC approval to wear the boots in future matches.
“I feel like some people in wider society like to see athletes and profile people express their opinions, but only if those opinions agree with them,” Greenberg told SEN.
“I think it’s much better to see authentic people, like Uzzie. If he wants to advance a specific cause, then we support him. We want our athletes to be heroes. We want people to look up to them.
“And to achieve that, they must be authentic, regularly and consistently, not just on the easy topics, but perhaps more importantly on the more difficult ones.”