OPINION: The NRL's hypocrisy over Matthew Lodge and racism
If the NRL bans someone for racial slurs, it should also give domestic violence perpetrator Matthew Lodge the boot, writes journalist SHERELE MOODY.
THERE'S a real stink of hypocrisy hanging over one of Australia's biggest sporting organisations right now.
On the one hand, the NRL is frothing at the mouth to dish out a life ban to a man busted making racial slurs towards South Sydney's Greg Inglis and Tyrone Peachey from the Penrith Panthers.
Yet, the league's national body is turning a blind eye to the Brisbane Broncos allowing Matthew Lodge to pull on the maroon guernsey despite his violent past.
In 2015, Lodge was charged with eight domestic violence offences against his then partner Charlene Saliba.
He ended up pleading guilty to one count of assault, he was placed on an apprehended violence order and copped a conviction that was erased from his criminal history on appeal.
Ms Saliba this week revealed the depth of abuse she suffered at the hands of the 22-year-old footy player.
"It started with controlling behaviour, then name-calling, then came the emotional abuse, he started throwing things, physically restraining me, (he) spat in my face, then pushing and shoving me, which then lead to threats on my life," the 26-year-old school teacher told media in an unpaid interview.
"I've lived the cycle of domestic abuse. I came out the other side.
"I am one of the lucky ones."
After facing court in Australia, Lodge headed to New York where he ended up going on another violent rampage.
First he abused, threatened, assaulted and followed tourist Carolin Dekeyser and a female friend as they made their way along a city street.
"Do you think you're going to die? This is the night you're going to die," he yelled at them.
Good Samaritan Josepth Cartright tried to let the two women into his building, but Lodge retaliated with a violent attack on him, his partner Ruth Fowler and their nine-year-old son.
"I'm too young to die," the little boy told his parents during the terrifying tirade.
Lodge was arrested at gunpoint with a judge eventually ordering him to pay US$1.234m in compensation to his victims.
Lodge returned home and two years later he scored a spot with the Broncos.
The Broncos and the NRL reckon Lodge earned his spot back onto the footy field because he attended behaviour change programs, acted contrite and remorseful and has not been in any trouble lately.
But in their hurry to re-sign the player, both organisations ignore three vital aspects of this whole sorry saga.
Firstly, Lodge has not paid one cent of the compensation money to his victims. Instead he reckons he is not paying because the family he traumatised "want the big bucks". "I offered to take out a small bank loan to do the right thing and pay them off, but it seems they are just after the big bucks," he told The Courier-Mail on March 3. If he is truly remorseful, he would not be throwing shade on the morality and ethics of those who survived his violence. Instead, he would be making amends by following the orders of the court.
Secondly, when Lodge was convicted of assault he did not accept the court's punishment of having a black mark on his criminal record in Australia. Instead he chose to fight the conviction and he won with the appeal court finding him "guilty without conviction". People who are truly contrite take their punishment, they don't drag out the court process because they realise this re-traumatises their victims.
Finally, the only people who get to decide whether or not a violent thug can be expunged of his responsibility are those that he hurt. These survivors will live with the emotional impacts of his violence for the rest of their lives. As far as I can see, none of the six survivors of Lodge's violence has publicly forgiven him and none of the them is happy that he is back in the limelight. The only people rushing to forgive are those who want to cash in on his considerable sporting talents.
I'm not saying Lodge should go unemployed, but why was it necessary to toss him a juicy on-field role in the public's eye. Why did the Broncos and the NRL deem it necessary - and appropriate - to allow a man with a shocking history of violence to become a role model - possibly even a hero - for impressionable, footy-mad kids?
The NRL has made all the right noises regarding abuse of women and domestic violence over the past few years.
It's even a big backer of White Ribbon, having had an ongoing relationship with the organisation since 2012.
The decision to let Lodge play is so unpalatable the NRMA is threatening to withdraw its sponsorship of the Broncos over the issue.
Ironically, it's another person's act of vile abuse that has kicked the NRL into an untenable position.
As the NRL moves towards banning the bloke who verbally abused Inglis and Peachey, it has to re-assess its response to Lodge and the violence he handed out.
If the NRL bans a racist fan for verbal abuse - which it absolutely should - it must also cut Lodge loose. You cannot take a strong stance against one violent act and push another aside with a few platitudes about remorse and paying the price.
To do so is hypocritical. And it's a huge a huge slap in the face to every woman who has survived the Matthew Lodges of the world. - NewsRegional
News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence issues. Sherele is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign which works to end violence against women and children.