South African rugby player fined after anti-gay slur

The Australian Rugby Union has fined Jacques Potgieter 20 000 Australian dollars – with $10 000 suspended – after the New South Wales Waratahs forward made an anti-gay slur during a Super Rugby match against the ACT Brumbies on Sunday.

The ARU issued a statement Monday saying the Sydney-based South African forward admitted making “comments contrary to the Australian Rugby Union’s Inclusion Policy”. Half the fine was suspended, and Potgieter was ordered to undergo educational and awareness training.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver says: “We take the issue of homophobia in sport seriously and want to provide a positive environment for everyone involved in rugby. Comments of this nature cannot be tolerated.”

ACT forward David Pocock, a vocal advocate of same-sex marriage, complained to referee Craig Joubert about the slurs during the match.

The South African back-rower, in his second year at NSW, was the subject of allegations by Brumbies flanker David Pocock to referee Craig Joubert in the second half that homophobic slurs were used by a Waratahs forward during their 23-18 win.

Potgieter expressed remorse over the incident, and apologised for any harm caused by his remarks. “I’m very sorry for any offence caused by what I said on the field during a heated encounter,” Potgieter said. “It was an offhand remark made without thought for the hurt it could cause to those around me.”

A Sanzar preliminary investigation into the case was first held and referred it to the Australian Rugby Union for consideration under the Sanzar disciplinary rules. The ARU, a signatory of the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework signed last August by Australia’s major sporting codes, handed the case to its integrity unit.

The ARU then released a statement on Monday evening confirming Porgieter’s fate. It did not reveal what homophobic slur was heard during Sunday’s blockbuster game before a 27 000-plus crowd.

His penalty relates to a breach of the ARU code of conduct, which prohibits homophobic or racist comments. “We take the issue of homophobia in sport seriously and want to provide a positive environment for everyone involved in Rugby,” ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said in the Sydney Morning Herald

“Comments of this nature cannot be tolerated. Our Inclusion Policy reinforces Australian Rugby’s commitment to ensure every individual, whether they’re players, supporters, coaches or administrators, feel safe, welcome and included regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

“I’d like to stress again that there is absolutely no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words on and off the field must reflect that.”

Meanwhile, the position taken by Pocock in Sunday’s game “speaks volumes about the guy,” says leading Australian gay rugby union and anti-homophobia in sports campaigner Andrew Purchas, who was president of last year’s Bingham Cup international gay rugby tournament in Sydney of which Pocock was an ambassador.

Purchas, who was also instrumental in the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework being signed, labelled as “unfortunate” the criticism Pocock received. “He obviously has a very strong moral compass and a very strong idea of what is right and what is wrong.” – Staff reporter, Sydney Morning Herald

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