NRL Suspends Sydney Roosters’ Spencer Leniu for Eight Weeks Over Racial Abuse Incident

Sydney Roosters’ prop Spencer Leniu has been handed an eight-week suspension by the National Rugby League (NRL) following an incident where he racially abused Brisbane Broncos’ player Ezra Mam during a game.

Leniu, aged 23, admitted to using an offensive term directed at Mam, who is Indigenous Australian, during the match. Despite denying any racial intent behind his words, a judiciary panel convened by the NRL ruled otherwise, stating that Leniu’s use of the word was racially motivated.

Acknowledging Leniu’s genuine remorse, the panel emphasized the need for a substantial ban to serve as a strong deterrent against such behavior in the future.

The incident occurred during the NRL season-opener on 2 March at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, as part of efforts to attract a US audience to Australia’s premier rugby league competition. Mam, aged 21, brought Leniu’s slur to the attention of referee Adam Gee during the match, with another teammate also corroborating the accusation.

While Leniu admitted to calling Mam a “monkey,” referee Gee did not hear the exchange but lodged a formal complaint at Mam’s request, leading to Leniu being charged with breaching the NRL’s code of conduct and subsequently facing the judiciary panel.

As a result of his suspension, Leniu will miss eight matches and will be eligible to return against the New Zealand Warriors on 12 May.

In response to the incident, Sydney Roosters’ chief executive Joe Kelly issued an unreserved apology to Mam and extended it to the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Kelly emphasized the club’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity, denouncing all forms of racism.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo echoed similar sentiments, condemning racism and vilification within rugby league while commending Mam for speaking out against it. Abdo also recognized Leniu’s remorse and urged for consideration of his well-being amid the repercussions of his actions.

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