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The questions NZ Rugby won't answer

Posted in: Features
By Jay Bennie - 16th November 2016

In late May this year a number of New Zealand's most significant sporting codes came together and with some fanfare announced the launch of a diversity initiative which was prompted by the findings of a 2015 study of homophobia in sport.

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New Zealand's Rugby's Chief Executive Steve Tew was prominent at the launch and in signing onto the agreement. It was said that seven months later, by the end of this year, they would have established a framework for diversity and inclusion within the individual organisations and established a programme of agreed areas of focus by the end of this year.

Just over two months later a gay Waikato man was taunted with homophobic abuse at a hot pools complex by Chiefs player Michael Allardice during a team bonding gathering there. Public disgust at the incident mounted, Allardice eventually fronted up and through the Chiefs he issued an apology.

GayNZ.com Daily News began discussions with the Chiefs regarding getting an interview with Allardice or somebody at the Chiefs head office who would be able to speak frankly and knowledgeably on the incident or the issues contributing to it. Despite numerous calls and half-promises of something being arranged nothing ever quite fell into place until our attempts were blown out of the water by the claims of a stripper that she had been abused at another Chiefs function. The response to her complaints went nuclear and no one was available to even countenance the homosexual abuse matter with us. They were all in meetings or in consultation with Wellington or heading into sudden press conferences we were not given prior notice of.

Over the coming weeks we quietly plugged away to get someone, increasingly anyone would do, to address the homophobic slurs episode. At one stage an interview with the Chiefs boss was dangled in front of us and even Allardice was going to be available within a couple of days and could we be available 'this Friday.' We could. But, surprise, surprise, that became apparently impossible because Allardice had other matters on his plate and after Friday would be out of the Chiefs environment and therefore unavailable until the next season of Super Rugby. We were quickly advised by a knowledgeable source that in fact he was already out of the Chiefs' environment. Allardice's Facebook presence had already been locked down early in the affair so no luck there.

We pressed further and fired off a list of questions. No response. Tried again. Added a few questions by subsequent email. Nada.

In increasing frustration about the gay community and its media being brushed off and ignored and the 'strippergate' issue totally eclipsing, in the general media and clearly in rugby circles as well, the clearly 'less important' homophobic abuse matter which kicked the whole farrago into play, we spoke about the matter with NZ Rugby headquarters. They invited us to send our questions to them. We did so, on October 4th, and left the ball in their court. There has to date been no response.

So, for the record, here were our questions. We publicly invite someone, anyone, at any level of either the Chiefs or NZ Rugby, to finally front up and in some way address these questions - and probably a few others that will arise.


GAYNZ.COM'S INITIAL QUESTIONS:

For the Chiefs/NZ Rugby:

What did the other players present think of Michael Allardice's "Here come the gays... etc" comments at the pools?

What was the reaction of the other players to his comments at the time, and later?

Did any of the other players remonstrate with him at the time?

Did any of the other players apologise or attempt to apologise on his behalf to Mr Barraclough and/or his companions?

If so, in what way?

If not, why not?

Did any of the other players consider at the time that the comments were addressed to them and not Brendan Barraclough and his companions?

Did any of the other players consider that, if directed at them, the comments were appropriate or inappropriate within earshot of other people and/or gay men?

Did any of the chief's sponsors express any concern about the 'gay slur' incident?

Have there been or will there be any more actions taken or investigations made based on the gay slur incident?

Why, after all this time, have the Chiefs or Mr Allardice not yet communicated or engaged with us/the glbti community directly on this issue?

What progress have New Zealand Rugby and the provincial franchises such as the Chiefs made so far in the wake of the announcement earlier in the year of the diversity programme?

What will the next steps taken be?

What effect if any has the Allardice incident had on roll-out of the programme?

Given that nothing visible to the glbti community at large appears to have happened so far is the NZRU prepared to communicate/liaise with the national glbti community through GayNZ.com Daily News throughout the further development and execution of the programme?


For Michael Allardice:

Can you please recount for us the incident from your own perspective and recollection?

Are the shouted comments accurately recounted as including the repeated phrases "Here come the gays" and "Come on my face."

Why did you shout these comments?

Why did you consider this acceptable behaviour?

Did you then and do you now consider that the comments were abusive, insulting, demeaning and/or degrading?

Had you experienced or observed any anti-glbti behaviour or attitudes or comments in your rugby, family or social circles?

If so, of what nature and in what contexts?

What was your attitude to glbti people, and gay men in particular, leading up to this incident?

If the shouted comments typified your then attitude how did you come to form that attitude?

If they did not typify your then attitude what happened to make you behave in this way?

Do you have any glbti people in your circle of friends, associates or family?

What if any views did they express to you after the incident was publicised?

What processes, formal or informal, have you gone through to address this matter?

What is your current attitude to glbti people?

If you now have a (more) positive attitude to glbti people would you be prepared to take on an active and/or proactive role in helping glbti people fight discrimination in sporting environments?


- Jay Bennie

GayNZ.com Content Editor


Jay Bennie - 16th November 2016

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