SYDNEY (Reuters) - Nick Kyrgios has accused Olympic great Dawn Fraser of being a “blatant racist” after she said tennis players should “go back to where their parents came from” if they did not set a better example to Australian youth.
The former champion swimmer, after initially standing by her comments and denying they were racist, later issued an “unreserved apology for any comments... which may have caused offence to my fellow Australians including Nick and his family”.
Kyrgios was the subject of a barrage of criticism back home for his on-court antics when he was beaten by Richard Gasquet in the fourth round of the Wimbledon championships on Monday.
The 20-year-old was accused of giving up, or “tanking”, in one game, received a warning and a fine for an audible obscenity and conducted a running debate with the umpire throughout the match.
Fraser, who has been one of Australia’s best known sporting figures since she won the 100 meters freestyle at three successive Olympic Games from 1956, was invited to comment on his behavior on a popular morning TV show.
“It’s absolutely disgusting. I am so shocked to think that he went out there to play and he tanked, he did all that tanking, that’s terrible,” the 77-year-old said.
“They should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country, a great country of ours.
“If they don’t like it, go back to where their fathers or their parents came from. We don’t need them here in this country if they act like that.”
Kyrgios responded by linking to a video of Fraser’s comment on his Facebook page.
“Throwing a racket, brat. Debating the rules, disrespectful. Frustrated when competing, spoilt. Showing emotion, arrogant.”
“Blatant racist, Australian legend.”
After denying the comment was racist, Fraser later issued a formal statement of apology.
“Australians have a rich sporting heritage made up of individuals from a variety of different countries of origin,” she said.
“My intended message, which was not delivered as articulately as it could have been, was on a purely sporting level rather than meant as an attack on Nick’s ethnicity.
“Nick’s representing Australia and I want to see him representing Australian tennis in the best possible light.”
Kyrgios’s Wimbledon exit came a couple of days after Bernard Tomic was dumped from Australia’s Davis Cup team for launching a tirade at Tennis Australia officials in the wake of his third round exit at the All England Club.
Kyrgios, who was born and raised in Australia’s capital Canberra, has Greek and Malaysian-born parents.
Tomic was born in Germany but moved to Queensland when he was three with his Yugoslavia-born parents.
At the time of the last census in 2011, 43.1 percent of Australians had one or more parent born outside the country.
Ironically, Fraser was something of an anti-authoritarian figure in her heyday.
A 10-year ban for various misdemeanors during the 1964 Tokyo Games, including taking a flag from outside the Japanese emperor’s palace, scuppered her hopes of winning a fourth straight Olympic title in Mexico in 1968.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom/John O'Brien