Here at Ladies who League we often write about player behaviour. I know that I, especially, have often written about the importance of players not only being recognised for being gifted athletes, but also being recognised for the impact they can make on the wider community.
I am often disappointed when I see players in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
This week however, the focus has shifted from our players behaving badly to a fan behaving badly.
For those of you who have not kept up with the media this week, the NRL is currently speaking with a junior rugby player who is believed to have racially abused Ben Barba following his first game for the Brisbane Broncos against his former club, the Canterbury Bulldogs.
The abuse happened through social media – specifically, Instagram.
This type of behaviour is unacceptable.
Comments have been made by Ben’s dad who wants our governing body to make a stand when it comes to racism particularly after he has alleged that Ben has been spat on at games before.
I recognise that players and fans are a sample of society and reflect the issues which happen daily in the community at large, but the NRL has the opportunity to take a stand and to say, we do not approve of this sort of behaviour and they need to take this opportunity.
Jim Doyle, who is NRL chief operating officer has already commented on the incident, stating that there is no excuse for any sort of behaviour in the NRL which vilifies another member of the rugby league community.
This incident reminds me of a similar incident last year in the AFL involving Adam Goodes. After being called an ‘ape’ by a young girl during a match, Goodes confronted the girl and made some comments to her. At that moment Goodes took a stand and showed our society that the comment was something to be taken seriously.
Goodes did not take the opportunity to humiliate, point fingers or to play the blame game, instead speaking from the heart about how hurtful the comments had been and expressing his hope that the young girl would be educated and taught about the impact her words could have.
Ben has showed similar grace this week, accepting an apology from the teenager and expressing his hope that he will not be removed entirely from the Rugby League Community. The teenager will have to complete an approved cultural awareness program and show remorse to the ARL Indigenous Council before being able to take part in rugby league again.
The NRL is the biggest sport in Sydney and has an extremely high profile in Australia. The NRL can use its prominence to make our society better and to work towards the standards that our wider society should embrace and come to expect.
When kids see their favourite sports people standing up to racism – they will take notice of these words and the important message that their favourite sports people are spreading.
It’s not enough for us to ignore this issue and hope that it goes away – we need people like Adam Goodes and Ben Barba to make a stand and to say that racism is unacceptable in our society.
Sport is such an important part of our lives as Australians – we should use our sporting heroes as ambassadors for the issues affecting our wider society.
We as fans also have an extremely important role to play and we need to stand up and say that we do not tolerate racism. If you see someone making a comment at a game – tell someone. Be brave and make a stand.
This is an issue more important than winning football games – it’s about standing up and saying no to racism.
Ladies who League
For more stories from Ladies Who League, check out their website http://www.ladieswholeague.com/