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NRL hands Spencer Leniu eight-week suspension over racist slur

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Roosters player Spencer Leniu has been accused of using a racial slur against First Nations Broncos player Ezra Mama during the season opener in Las Vegas.
NRL suspension racist

The NRL has handed Sydney Roosters player Spencer Leniu an eight-week suspension over a racist slur.

Leniu was accused of using a racial slur against Ezra Mam, a First Nations Brisbane Broncos player, during the teams’ season opener in Vegas this month.

Leniu pleaded guilty to the charge and has apologised to Mam.

It means he will miss almost a third of the NRL season.

The incident

Mam made a formal complaint against Leniu in the second half of their opening-round match earlier this month.

Leniu was subsequently put on ‘report’ by the referee, which prompted an investigation by the NRL’s judiciary body.

Leniu initially dismissed accusations of racism, saying the comment was said in the heat of the game. Days later, he acknowledged the impact of his words and said he wanted to “take ownership” of the incident.

Judiciary panel

The NRL judiciary panel investigated the incident, and considered Leniu’s guilty plea, before deciding an appropriate suspension penalty.

Mam didn’t attend Monday night’s judiciary hearing. However, he described his anger and disappointment at Leniu’s slur in a statement.

The panel reached a “unanimous decision” to rule Leniu out of play for the Roosters until round 10 in May.

Roosters’ response

Roosters CEO Joe Kelly said that Leniu and the club ”apologise unreservedly” to Mam, his family, and all First Nations communities hurt by Leniu’s slur.

During the hearing, Leniu expressed shock and regret over the incident, saying: “I really am sorry to Ezra and his people”.

Kelly said that Leniu had “learnt a great deal” from the incident, and they would encourage him to increase his education about First Nations cultures.

Thurston’s response

Retired NRL great Jonathan Thurston said Leniu’s eight-week suspension didn’t go far enough, telling Nine that the NRL “failed” to take a meaningful stand against racism.

Thurston suggested a 12-match suspension should be the default penalty for players found guilty of racism.

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