Dally M Medallist Ben Barba has accepted an apology from a teenager who racially abused him on social media.
Ben Barba has accepted an apology from a junior rugby league player who racially abused him on a social media network.
However, the 18-year-old from NSW – who is registered with a Country Rugby League club – won’t be able to participate in the sport again until he undergoes an approved cultural awareness program and shows remorse in a meeting with indigenous elders.
The Canterbury fan sparked an Instagram row with Barba last Friday – the night the fullback made his Brisbane NRL debut against the Bulldogs – when he aimed a bigoted slur at the ex-Dally M Medallist.
However, the NRL said the Dapto teenager phoned Barba and expressed his remorse late on Tuesday.
“I appreciate that people can make mistakes and I accept the apology offered,” Barba said on the NRL website.
“I was once a teenager and made mistakes. I believe as long as this young man receives some education on racial abuse and the effects it has, he can learn from the incident.
“I certainly don’t want him lost from our game.”
However, the NRL said the teenager would need to complete an approved cultural awareness program and show remorse to the ARL Indigenous Council and indigenous elders in order to participate in the sport again.
“We take these matters very seriously and will continue to act strongly on any form of racial abuse in our game,” NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle said.
“Rugby League is an inclusive sport and vilification will not be tolerated.
“It is important we continue to educate everyone that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable, both in rugby league and in society in general.”
Doyle said the NRL Integrity Unit met with the teenager and his family on Tuesday.
Consultation between the NRL, CRL, ARL Indigenous Council, Brisbane Broncos and the teenager’s family determined his punishment.
“I am pleased to join the NRL in its condemnation and action taken on this issue,” ARL Indigenous Council Chair Linda Burney said.
“People need to understand how hurtful and unacceptable racial vilification is.”
Barba’s Brisbane teammate Sam Thaiday – a victim of racial abuse on Twitter in 2012 – said he felt sorry for the teenager.
“I think everyone talking about the issue is punishment enough,” he said.
“He is probably sitting there knowing he has made a bad mistake.
“I feel for him a little bit.”
The NRL stepped in after Barba’s father Ken called on the governing body to crack down on racism, saying his son was spat on during games for the Bulldogs last year and was sick and tired of abuse.
Thaiday revealed Barba was initially “pretty gutted” by the Instagram slur but believed his teammate would have his head right by Friday night’s NRL derby clash with North Queensland.
“It is pretty rough to read those things about you,” said Thaiday.
“There is no place for racism in league or society in general. Hopefully we can move on and get the focus back on footy.”