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Education must lift to stop NRL racism: Fogarty

Alex Mitchell -

Canberra halfback Jamal Fogarty says education is crucial to stopping more incidents of racism in the NRL, as the use of language within the competition continues to be put on trial.

Sydney Roosters prop Spencer Leniu received an eight-game suspension for a racial slur directed at Brisbane five-eighth Ezra Mam, but his coach Trent Robinson leapt to his defence and said it was "a language issue" rather than racism.

Samoa international Leniu used Monday night's judiciary hearing to outline instances of casual racism used within NRL clubs, claims supported by Manly forward Haumole Olakau'atu who said he has often been labelled a "coconut".

Mununjali man Fogarty said he hadn't experienced that in his time in the NRL, and worried what impact it would have on future generations.

"It's pretty poor that in 2024 we're having racist remarks in a game that's on television, that's probably setting a bad example for everyone else in the public," he said.

"Spencer Leniu has got his punishment, and the NRL can move forward, but it's just poor that it's 2024 we still have that in the game."

But Fogarty seemingly accepted Leniu's account that he did not understand his comment to be racist, stating society at large must continue to learn how to be more culturally sensitive.

"If you don't know, you don't know, and that's being genuine … it's education, not pointing the finger at this person," he said.

"Obviously, they learned that behaviour or they don't have an understanding of it.

"Each club, schools, jobs, businesses, everyone in the world and Australia, if we can just get a little bit of education around it, because there are some people out there that probably don't know.

"That's the best way forward, if you don't know, ask questions, get educated on it and we're going to be a better country for it."

Roosters coach Robinson said language similar to Leniu's was common in society, not just the NRL.

"He is not racist … his use of language was on trial," he said on Wednesday.

"This is a language issue, this is common between people of all ages in sport or in the playground … it's banter between guys and I'm not saying it's right.

"But we need to change the language with which we speak to each other."

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo stood by the league's player-education program following the judiciary's finding earlier this week.

Racism is covered during a player's induction to the NRL and they get lessons through Theatre Sport, who act out acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Clubs and the players' union deliver regular training that includes cultural awareness guidance.

"Players undertake mandatory education and training throughout their careers in the NRL on this and a range of matters," Abdo told AAP on Tuesday.

"We work with the RLPA to ensure we have continuous improvement and best practice in the delivery of these important programs."

Alex Mitchell - AAP

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