Australian sporting icon Dawn Fraser has apologised “unreservedly” for offending Nick Kyrgios and his family with comments that they had described as nasty and racist.
Fraser faced a storm of criticism on Tuesday after suggesting Kyrgios and fellow tennis star Bernard Tomic should set a better example or go back to where their parents came from.
She later issued a statement apologising.
“I want to unreservedly apologise for any comments that I made this morning which may have caused offence to my fellow Australians including Nick and his family,” she said.
The Olympic swimming great had earlier told a breakfast television show she was disgusted by Kyrgios’ behaviour and alleged “tanking” in his fourth-round Wimbledon loss to Richard Gasquet.
Kyrgios was booed on court after he appeared to deliberately fail to return serves during the third game of the second set.
When asked on live TV if it was a case of having too much money and fame at such an early age and lacking humility, the 77-year-old agreed and lumped suspended Davis Cup star Tomic in with Kyrgios.
“They should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this great country of ours,” Fraser told the Nine Network.
“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 is the son of a Greek-born father and Malaysian-born mother but was born in Canberra.
Tomic is German-born with a Croatian father and Bosnian mother and their family migrated to the Gold Coast when Tomic was three.
The 20-year-old Kyrgios, who denied he tanked, responded via social media with a post linking to Fraser’s tirade on Facebook.
“Throwing a racket, brat. Debating the rules, disrespectful. Frustrated when competing, spoilt. Showing emotion, arrogant,” he wrote.
“Blatant racist, Australian legend.”
His mother Nill added her thoughts on Twitter.
“I have no comments on Dawn Frasers nasty racist attack… but she is out of line. #unaustralianbehaviour,” she posted.
Kyrgios’ brother Christos said he was “embarrassed for Australia as a whole” because of Fraser’s comments.
“It’s just disgusting that someone of that calibre and has that sort of exposure in the media can come out and say something like that,” he told the ABC.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane joined the wave of criticism against Fraser, telling the National Press Club on Tuesday: “Contrary to what the likes of Dawn Fraser might say, most Australians do not tell migrants and their children to go back to where they came from.”
The four-time Olympic gold medallist said the comments that went to air were part of a “larger, un-broadcasted interview”.
“However this does not condone what was said,” she added.
“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.
“Australians have a rich sporting heritage made up of individuals from a variety of different countries of origin.
“Nick’s representing Australia and I want to see him representing Australian tennis in the best possible light.”
Christos later rejected Fraser’s apology, adding that her comments were undeniably racist.
“Look, the apology means nothing to me,” he told Network Ten’s The Project.
“Nick’s behaviour on court can be construed many different ways from different people, you know, some people might think it’s acceptable, some people may not, some people may understand it, some people may not but that is black and white racist.”