NRL News: ‘We will not tolerate any form of racism’ – V’landys vows heavy sanctions if Leniu called Mam a ‘monkey’


An upset Ezra Mam has told Brisbane officials he is adamant Sydney Roosters prop Spencer Leniu racially abused him in the NRL’s season-opening Las Vegas double-header.

In an incident that threatens to overshadow rugby league’s march into the USA, Leniu was placed on report late in the Broncos’ 20-10 loss at Allegiant Stadium.

The NRL have since confirmed they are reviewing the matter, which could lead to Leniu being sent straight to the judiciary on return to Australia if charged.

“We certainly will not tolerate any form of racism … full stop,” ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys told NewsCorp.

“At the same time, the player has to be given due process and natural justice so it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further. But we take these matters seriously.”

Latrell Mitchell has also demanded the NRL take action, posting to Instagram: “I stand with you Bala. (The NRL) better deal with this shit”.

Indigenous star Mam could be heard telling referee Adam Gee, “He called me a monkey”, as other Broncos players also say, “He called him a monkey”.

Gee said he did not hear the alleged slur himself, and asked Mam if he wanted to make a formal complaint, to which Mam responded: “Yes I do”.

When placed on report by Gee, Leniu can be heard saying to the referee: “Why would I say that?”.

Spencer Leniu in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Leniu told Triple M after the match that he was not “worried at all”, and that the incident was “just fun and games on the field, that’s it”.

But Broncos coach Kevin Walters said Mam was certain a racial slur had been made.

“He’s pretty upset in there,” Walters said. “He’s adamant (there was a slur), but we’ll leave it with the NRL. They’re looking at it.

“We certainly support Ezra and our player and everything that’s around that.”

Broncos captain Adam Reynolds said he personally had not heard the slur, but was shocked by the allegation.

“In this day and age, you wouldn’t think this is still out there,” Reynolds said. “I was well away from it. But we support our player. He is pretty upset in there. 

“Ezra’s made a formal complaint that’s racial in nature.”

Spencer Leniu was put on report.

???? Watch #NRLVegas on ch.502 or stream on Kayo:

— Fox League (@FOXNRL) March 3, 2024

“We certainly don’t stand for racism and we’ll support Ezra and get around him, make sure he’s alright.”

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said he had not spoken to Samoan Test representative Leniu about the allegation yet, but said it was important a process was followed.

“He obviously made the complaint, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right,” Robinson said. 

“It’ll go through the formal process as it should.”

The incident came in a brutal but entertaining win for the Roosters to start the season, in front of 40,746 fans at Allegiant Stadium.

Robinson wants Roosters to return to Vegas in 2025

Trent Robinson has made clear he wants the Sydney Roosters to return to Las Vegas next year as the race to play in the 2025 double-header begins.

The NRL’s travelling roadshow will start flying out of the USA on Monday, with small pockets forced to wait until Tuesday to being their return home.

But they leave feeling buoyant with the league’s historic push into America, after 40,706 fans turned out for the Allegiant Stadium double-header.

Players compared the atmosphere to that of finals football, while locals spoken to by AAP were struck by the “ferociousness” and pace of the sport.

The NRL will wait on television figures before declaring how successful the venture was, and must find a way to connect new fans with games on a weekly basis.

But next year is already on the agenda.

The NRL’s 17 club bosses convened in Vegas on Friday for a CEOs meeting, and were all in the chairman’s lounge behind the posts for Saturday night’s games.

Broadly speaking, there is a desire from most clubs to feature in the event, and it is expected all will over the course of the five-year deal to play in Sin City.

But the clubs involved in Saturday’s matches are also keen to return.

Roosters chairman Nick Politis and Manly owner Scott Penn have each signalled their intention, after giving up home games for the Vegas venture in 2024.

And while it remains to be seen what impact the travel has on players this season, Robinson made clear he was more than keen to return in 2025.

“I think it’s absolutely fair that we get the chance to come back again next year,” Robinson quipped. 

“We’ve got to export our game and Nick’s never been shy and saying, we feel like we represent the game of rugby league well.

“If that’s a choice, then then we would like to do that, because we represent Sydney and it can represent the world stage. 

Joseph Manu runs the ball at Allegiant Stadium. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“It’s a really strong brand in the game. And if that goes in that way where that’s open, then we’d love to do it. 

“If it doesn’t, and it rotates, then we definitely understand that as well.”

The NRL are also desperate to use this season’s matches as a launching point, with the potential to invite English teams and play women’s fixtures in the future.

Speculation about taking Magic Round to Vegas has been floated in recent weeks, but that still appears some way off.

“This is like a step in the right direction and an important milestone, but we want to build off it,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told AAP. “We want to keep growing this and make this even bigger. 

“This is different to other sports bringing exhibition games. I think the Americans respect that. We’ve had a lot of good feedback on that.”

with AAP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.