Removing Illawarra from the Hawks name was "an egregious act of corporate theft"
So said Federal Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones on Thursday in Parliament House while launching a petition demanding the National Basketball League 'put the name back'.
Armed with a front page copy of the Illawarra Mercury, Mr Jones went into bat for his hometown basketball team and their "loyal and passionate supporters".
"The rules in relation to decency have not applied when it comes to the National Basketball League's treatment of the Illawarra Hawks. The Illawarra Hawks have a long, proud tradition as a community club. It's the only club with 41 continuous years playing in the NBL," he said.
On Wednesday the NBL announced that it had sold the licence for the Illawarra Hawks, and a condition of that sale was removing the name 'Illawarra' from the nameplate of the club.
"It's an egregious act of corporate theft," Mr Jones fumed.
"Today I am launching a petition aimed at the NBL, demanding that they put the name back.
"The club is not just a brand; it's a heritage, a memory. It's about the wins, the celebration of the wins, the highs and the lows, and the losses.
"We're a tribe. And if you separate that tribe from the club-if you separate the name from the region-then all you have is an empty logo."
Mr Jones, a long-term member of the Illawarra Hawks, hit out at the NBL commissioners.
"They think the logo is the club. They think the club is interchangeable with the brand," he said.
"Well, I've got a message for the commissioners: the brand is not the club. The club is its loyal fan base, the players, the people who've supported the club through thick and thin.
"If they think that a club is just a brand, I ask them to think about this: people don't queue up for hours to buy tickets to sit in a cold stadium to watch Coles head off against Woolworths.
We believe that it is possible for this club to prosper without abandoning the name of the regional community that has supported them faithfully for 41 years.Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird
"People don't go to the State of Origin to barrack for XXXX over Tooheys. They go there to barrack for their local team.
"It's about the local team. If the National Basketball League think we're going to stand for this, they've got another thing coming. Our petition demands that the NBL put the Illawarra back into the Hawks."
Mr Jones and Federal Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird also wrote a letter to NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger.
"We call on the NBL to reverse this deeply disrespectful and divisive decision and allow the new ownership group to retain the name of the Illawarra Hawks," they wrote.
"As fans of the Illawarra Hawks, we want to see them succeed and grow, but it is vital that they retain their Illawarra identity.
"We believe that it is possible for this club to prosper without abandoning the name of the regional community that has supported them faithfully for 41 years."
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