Toowoomba Rugby League club apologises after racial slur in grassroots sport

A racial slur caught on camera at a grassroots rugby league match has shone a light on the discrimination which occurs at this level of sport.

The incident happened at a Toowoomba Rugby League game at the weekend, where a member of the crowd said a racial slur towards a player from the opposing team.

The statement was picked up in video footage taken of the game.

Other members of the crowd who surrounded the person could be heard laughing at the remark.

Gamilaraay man Buddy Hippi, who plays for another team in the competition, he said the comment made him feel sick in the stomach.

“Racism lives and breathes in our community, everywhere,” Mr Hippi said.

“Words have energy, words have meaning and to hear that as a first nations man, it hits your core.”

He said it made him look at himself and the younger kids coming through.

“It really sinks you,” he said.

“It just shows this country has got a long way to go, whether it’s football related or not it’s got nothing to do with it.”

Buddy Hippi says hearing the slur made him feel sick in the stomach. (Supplied: Buddy Hippic)

The club involved, Pittsworth Danes, released a statement saying “there is no place for racism in our game or society”.

Text on a green background.
The Pittsworth Danes released a statement regarding the incident. (facebook)

“As a club we do not stand for it, and we will take appropriate action once the investigation is complete,” the statement reads.

“We would like to apologise on behalf of the club to the players involved.”

About 30 to 40 per cent of players in the Toowoomba Rugby League competition are culturally diverse and the league embraces multiculturalism.

But after the latest incident, players have taken to social media suggesting they may take a knee on the weekend’s games or boycott the game altogether.

Opportunity for education

Mr Hippi said the incident provided the opportunity for further education.

“Sport brings people together, no matter your heritage or where you come from, you’re no less or no better than anybody,” Mr Hippi said.

“Not just the TRL, but football, society in general needs to take a look out ourselves and really enforce this,” he said.

He said it would have a domino effect, not just within football but in all sports.

“It’s really time to make a statement here that it’s just not acceptable in any shape or form,” he said.

“You look at the professional codes with Adam Goodes and those types of players that have copped this sort of stuff before and it fizzled down off that, but obviously it’s still here in the community.”

A team of football players with Aboriginal artwork on their jersey.
The Toowoomba Rugby League celebrates Indigenous round.(ABC Southern Queensland: Anthea Moodie)

‘slip through the cracks’

Toowoomba Rugby League chairman Joe Hannant said a person of interest had been identified and was due face the competition’s judiciary on Thursday next week.

Under the Queensland Rugby League framework, penalties can range from monetary fines to match bans.

Mr Hannant said the competition had taken appropriate steps.

“It’s a scourge across our society still, it’s something that we’re all dealing with across all different scopes in our community,” Mr Hannant said.

“We’ve been talking about the code of conduct behavior and the racial side of things, it’s certainly been on our radar and we’ve been putting out all stops to try and control it.

“You can do as much as you can, but there’s always that element that despite your best efforts, unfortunately, these things slip through the cracks.”


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