Tuesday, May 21

Are some characters not fit for footy?

Do athletes playing rugby league in the NRL need to meet a moral threshold of good character, and should their personal indiscretions count against their eligibility to not only play the game, but also be recognised for their achievements within it?

This week sees the NRL find themselves in the unenviable position of having to honour Michael Jennings, who will play his 300th game in the NRL when he takes the field for the Roosters on Thursday night.

It brings into the spotlight a variety of issues and headaches for CEO Andrew Abdo, who after reading an impassioned plea by Sydney scribe, Phil (Buzz) Rothfield, has decided against honouring Jennings with any customary platitudes.

Why?

Surely if Jennings had his contract approved by the Integrity Committee, there’s no reason why Jennings should be treated any differently. That’s a reasonable argument.

The fact of the matter is, Jennings should never have had his contract renewed in the first place. And by doing so, the NRL now finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. They thought they were giving a drug cheat a second chance, and may not have realised they were also endorsing a man found by a civil court to have sexually assaulted his wife on four separate occasions.

Oops.

Jennings has also reportedly failed to pay $500,000 in reparations to his ex-wife, after two separate courts ruled against him and ordered him to do. Not only that, but Jennings reportedly sold assets and gave the money to a third party as a way of avoiding having to pay her by suggesting he doesn’t have the wealth to do so. Are those the actions of a person of good moral character?

This raises the question of whether our actions in our personal lives should be relevant within the context of our professional lives. For you and I, maybe not so much. But as a public figure, how can past indiscretions be avoided? Does Jennings behaviour reflect the type of moral character you want in players representing the code and clubs you support?

A quarter of women in New Zealand experience violent abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. And this figure is absent of the abuse that goes unreported due to shame and intimidation.

The game is bigger than Michael Jennings, but is it bigger than the issue he presents?

I do believe people should get a second chance. But Jennings actions toward his wife weren’t just a one-time incident. Throw in the matter of his drug cheating, and I can’t reconcile how he has been cleared to play in our beautiful game.

Violence toward women should not be tolerated or condoned and unfortunately, rugby league has developed a reputation for being a sport of thugs. Given the trail of headlines over the past 25 years, it’s hard to argue against that. How often do you ever hear of an elite tennis or golf player up on sexual assault charges? It happens in other sports, but it’s extremely rare. And given the volume of athletes involved in other sports, league is disproportionately featured in these headlines.

What does it say to the mothers out there, raising their kids, if the game continues to sweep the despicable actions of every Michael Jennings under the proverbial rug? Why would they want their child to be involved in our game?

If a man physically or sexually abuses a woman, he is not a man. He is a coward with the emotional intelligence of a delinquent teenager. The decision to not recognise Michael Jennings achievements in the game is the correct decision. Whoever made the call to approve his contract, is a fucking idiot who needs a good punch in the… I’m kidding…

Just fire the dumb prick.

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