Words That Hurt

There's been a lot in the media in Australia about racist comments recently - all with very negative consequences. Here's three examples:

1. In Rugby League, coach, TV presenter and former great Andrew Johns, described a Queensland player as a "black c---". Dropped from coaching position and public apology.

2. Former AFL player and West Australian, Mal Brown has been hounded by the media for giving a joking speech in which he referred to Aborigines he once played with as "cannibals". Forced to publicly apologise.

3. Robert DiPierdomenico, Hawthorn AFL Legend and popular ambassador for the AFL's Auskick program in an admiring reference to Gavin Wanganeen, in which he detailed the fellow Brownlow winner's honours, he added: "Not bad for an Abo." Now dumped from the job.

So what went wrong and why are their reputations of these sporting legends now tarnished for their public comments?

Well in a media statement today, the head of one of sport’s premier ‘fair play’ programs is concerned the problem runs far deeper than a few wisecracks.

Steve Rossingh, Executive Director of the Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport and co-chair of Play by the Rules, a national initiative to encourage fair play in sport, says racism in any form is just that: racism.

“Any comment that is derogatory, insulting or offensive is disrespectful and saying it as a joke is no defence. I fear that racist comments like those we’ve heard recently are really symptoms of an underlying prejudice.”

But Rossingh was quick to point out that racism isn’t just evident in elite sport and that everyone in sport has a responsibility to see that their sport is welcoming and inclusive..

“Club sport lies at the heart of our communities and, although the elite sports stars can provide important role models, it’s the parents, coaches, players and administrators in clubs all over the country who must also play a role in addressing racism.

“Racism is hurtful and damaging and pointless – it can also be unlawful. There’s no place for it in sport. In fact, sport offers a wonderful opportunity to put our differences aside and engage in friendly and sometimes fierce competition with people regardless of their backgrounds, skin colours or the language they speak. Sport can be a great leveller.”

Rossingh believes the current debate provides an opportunity for all sports to consider the culture of their clubs and what they can do to promote fair and inclusive environments for participation.

“It’s disappointing to hear people we respect using racist language but, if we can acknowledge that racism exists, rather than laughing it off, we can start to actually do something about it.”

Play By The Rules offers online training, information and resources for clubs and sporting organisations to ensure everyone involved in sport can do so in enjoyable, safe environments, free from discrimination or harassment.

Play by the Rules is a unique partnership between the Australian Sports Commission, Australian Human Rights Commission and all state and territory sport and recreation and anti-discrimination agencies.

Want to avoid this happening to you in a speech.

Here are some options:

1. Never swear in a speech or near a microphone
2. Never make racist comments

Please consider our next Speechwriter and Speech building seminar in Perth on August 17th 2010 or our personal mentor program. More details here.

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