Indigenous Australian rugby star accuses rival player of using racial slur

Spencer Leniu referred to judiciary over racial abuse allegations

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 04 March 2024 07:27 GMT
Ezra Mam throws a football during a Brisbane Broncos NRL training session at California Lutheran University
Ezra Mam throws a football during a Brisbane Broncos NRL training session at California Lutheran University (Getty Images)

Ezra Mam, an Indigenous Australian rugby star, has accused a member of the opponent team of using racial slur against him during a match in Las Vegas.

Mam, a Broncos five-eighth and Torres Strait Islander, claimed Sydney Roosters prop, Spencer Leniu, called him a "monkey" during the National Rugby League's (NRL) season-opening double-header.

Leniu responded to the allegations saying it was all "fun and games on the field" and nothing had happened. He was hit with a contrary conduct charge and referred to the judiciary on Sunday by the NRL.

Leniu, if found guilty, would face a multiple-week suspension.

Kevin Walters, the Brisbane coach, said Mam was “adamant” about the complaint and the club was extending support to the player. “Ezra is pretty upset, we will leave that in the hands of the NRL to police and adjudicate on," said Walters.

The alleged incident took place during the second half of the game following a penalty that led teams to come together in a tussle.

Following the tussle, Mam could be heard repeatedly telling referee Adam Gee, "he called me a monkey", SBS World News reported.

The referee said he did not hear the slur and asked Mam whether he wanted to make a formal complaint.

"Ezra has made a formal complaint that is racial in nature against Spencer," Gee told the two captains. "I haven't heard it, but the incident goes on report and it will be dealt with after. That's where it's left."

Following the incident, Mam reportedly broke down into tears.

“It was really disappointing to be talking about something of this nature,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo told Australian Associated Press. “There is no place for discrimination of any kind. We take it very, very seriously.

“I can’t talk about the specifics of what happened last night. The player involved has been charged and then referred directly to the judiciary. We will respect that process and won’t make comments.”

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