The NRL's stinking hypocrisy

Saturday, July 5, 2014
No player has been sacked for violence against women, despite many serious allegations.

For controversial sporting bans for violating “common decency”, forget Luis Suarez and his four-month ban from all football-related activities after the Uruguayan striker decided to taste a little Italian. If you want a really outrageous penalty for a sporting star, it is hard to overlook the sacking of rugby league player Todd Carney.

Carney was given his marching orders by the NRL's Cronulla Sharks after a photo was leaked on social media of Carney in a nightclub toilet engaged in an activity that had nothing to do with the sport, any crime, or even any harm to anyone at all. Except, perhaps, Carney's own sense of dignity, but that, by available evidence, was pretty thin on the ground to start with.

True, the supposed activity was especially attention-grabbing. The photo purportedly showed the 28-year-old halfback urinating directly into his own mouth in the dunny of a club called Northies after Cronulla got slaughtered by the Manly Sea Eagles in their June 21 clash.

(And, surely, losing to Manly is the real crime here ... I mean, rugby league is not my game, but even I understand the importance of beating those North Shore Tony Abbott-backed Sea Eagle bastards.)

The result was Carney was tossed aside for that greatest of all crimes for major sporting codes and clubs — the crime of generating embarrassing headlines.

Noone has stopped to ask whether, if Carney's idea of a good time is urinating in his own mouth in dodgy nightclub dunny, that is really a matter for him. He wasn't asking for permission for what would seem to be a pretty bloody weird fetish.

He was just a bloke standing at the urinal of some shit club getting snapped while trying to piss into his own gob.

He did not even know the picture was being taken and it was apparently leaked after the phone it was taken on was lost, and found by a total stranger who published it.

But what is more, the guy who took the photo said “I went into the toilet, found Todd there, he asked me whether I had heard of ‘the fountain’,” and actually clarified that “the urine never went into his mouth”.

Carney says it was “just a prank” designed to make it look like he was urinating into his mouth as a visual trick. Much like, as his manager helpfully explained, “when people stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa”. You know, so it looks like the tower is their penis.

Now, noone has ever accused Carney of being in any way classy or even vaguely highbrow. But really, if being a bit of a gross dickhead was grounds to sack professional sports players, there'd be so few available for selection, I could probably get a run on the half forward flank for my AFL side, the goddamn Essendon Bombers.

It is true that Carney has some serious form, having been sacked by two clubs already for alcohol-related issues. He has been repeatedly done for drink driving. He has even been accused of causing harm to others by setting fire to some poor bastard in a club in one case and even urinating on a guy in another.

Those are all serious issues for which disciplinary measures are no doubt justified. But the latest incident is entirely different. At least this time he was only accused of pissing on himself, which if anything, indicates progress that should be supported.

And yes, on a scale of injustice between 1-100, Carney not being allowed to run around a pitch in tight shorts wrestling other thick-necked boofheads, struggles to even reach a single digit when, at the same time, our own government jails more than 1000 children indefinitely in isolated hell holes for no crime asides from belonging to families forced to flee repression.

But on the scale of hypocrisy, it is absolutely through the roof. Because what is so outrageous, so unutterably disgraceful, is that the NRL does have a real and widely documented behavioural problem — and it has nothing to do with urine at all.

It is to be found in the repeated allegations against NRL players of serious acts of violence against women — including many accusations of rape.

And I know of no case in which allegations of rape or bashing a woman has led to the immediate and direct sacking of a player. If there is such a case, it is a clear exception. The rule is the club, and the NRL, forms ranks around the players and tries its hardest to make the issue disappear.

Carney commits no crime and hurts no one — but gets sacked. But, as a 2012 Mamamia article entitled “Hey NRL when will you ban players who bash women?” pointed out, a petition campaign was underway to try to convince the NRL it should actually terminate the contracts of players found guilty of domestic violence — of which there were two at the time.

And as to rape, the allegations, frequently of a gang rape variety, have really piled up in recent years.

In each case, the cry from the club and code is that the players deserve to be considered “innocent until proven guilty”.

But really, even without looking at the documented difficulty women have in securing convictions through the courts over sexual assaults, we don’t need to dwell on any particular allegation to get a clear, unambiguous sense that their sheer number, featuring several clubs, indicates a serious fucking cultural problem among professional rugby league players.

Not for nothing was the devastating 2009 Four Corners show, featuring a New Zealand woman's horrific recounting of a 2002 gang rape by Cronulla players, titled “Code of Silence”.

And this is what makes the Todd Carney case so outrageous. It is that the same club has just lost its shit over one stupid photo in which noone was hurt and which seems to have been staged anyway, while it and the code in general does worse than nothing over what is clearly a deeply engrained and widespread culture of violent misogyny.

The NRL and its clubs ride roughshod over scandals involving gang rape by their players. NRL clubs have even selected players to play the very week they were publicly named as alleged rapists.

In fact, getting caught up in a gang rape scandal is nowhere near enough, in rugby league circles, to stop you enjoying successful high-profile media career. Is it, Matty Johns?

And that fact is one million times more sickening, stomach turning and unspeakably foul than anything Todd Carney could ever do to himself with his own bodily fluids.

[An earlier version of this article was published at Carlo Sands' blog. Carlo Sands is performing with others at the "Abbottalypse Now" Green Left Weekly comedy fundraiser in Sydney on August 21. See the Facebook event for full details. ]

From GLW issue 1015