Australian commentator condemned for mocking double amputee
An Australian sports commentator has been widely criticized after appearing to mock the coin toss of double amputee Cynthia Banham.
Former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Banham lost both of her legs following a plane crash in Indonesia in 2007.
“I think we should introduce a $5,000 fine to anybody who’s tossing the coin and can’t do it properly,” Eddie McGuire, commentator on Australian Football League channel Fox Footy, said.
“Every week, we have someone dropping it on their foot. Come on, toss it up properly, for goodness sake. Practice in the week, you know you’re going to do it. It can’t be that hard can it, guys?”
As well as working for Fox Footy, McGuire is president of the Collingwood Football Club and former CEO of the Nine Network TV station.
At the time of the plane crash, which killed 21 of 140 people on board, Banham worked as the foreign affairs correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald.
She also suffered severe scarring to her left arm and lost the ends of her fingers on her left hand, according to an interview with the newspaper last year.
Banham is now an ambassador for Aussie Rules team the Sydney Swans, who she was representing in the coin toss prior to the AFL match against Adelaide.
At half time, McGuire issued a statement on Fox Footy apologizing “unreservedly” for his comments.
“It had nothing to do with Cynthia Banham, who was the coin tosser tonight at the SCG and has a disability,” he said.
“I just want to apologize if this was communicated in the wrong way, I did not mean to offend anyone, especially Cynthia, and I apologize unreservedly to her, her family and friends, Swans supporters and anybody watching tonight who took it that way.
“My apologies there, for that comment.”
McGuire was roundly condemned for his comments, with one Twitter user saying: “Cynthia Banham, journalist and scholar, who survived the Yogyakarta plane crash, who is an amputee, tossed the coin at the Swans game tonight. Eddie McGuire mocked her coin tossing skills.”
Another said: “Cynthia Banham is a friend and the most courageous person I know. @EddieMcGuireTV you are an ignorant disgrace – and not for the first time.”
CNN emailed Banham for comment but did not receive a response before publication.
It’s not the first time that McGuire has been at the center of controversy for comments made on air.
In 2013, he suggested Adam Goodes, an AFL player who is of indigenous Australian ancestry, be used to promote the musical King Kong.
McGuire apologized for what he described as a “slip of the tongue” and said that he was absolutely against racial vilification.
That incident occurred just days after Goodes had been racially abused by a young Collingwood fan who referred to him as an ape, an incident for which McGuire was forced to apologize on behalf of the club.