Interim NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has flat out rejected suggestions of racism around the latest controversy to rock the sport.
Abdo has been forced to speak out after criticism of the fines for two of the stars punished for breaching social distancing rules.
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Indigenous stars Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr were both slammed for using their race as an excuse breaching health protocols amid the coronavirus crisis.
Both players said they were gathering on a Taree property for ‘cultural’ reasons, while Mitchell later claimed the pair were only under fire because of their race.
The pair were fined $20,000 with another $30,000 suspended over the camping trip involving the use of firearms at a property on the NSW Mid North Coast over the weekend.
The two other players found guilty of breaching social distancing rules - Nathan Cleary and Tyronne Roberts-Davis - were both fined $4,000 with $6,000 suspended.
Abdo said there was a perfect explanation for the difference between the fines, shutting down any notion of racism.
“This has nothing to do with culture or race,” he said.
“This has to do with what is expected of all our players and the standards they need to adhere to for our fans and for the community.
“What’s happened with Latrell and Josh, is that they’ve gone on a planned holiday which included camping with a wide number of people. You’ve all seen on social media what they got up to.
“That’s very different to someone being at home and whilst it’s still against the public health order, it’s very different context to someone attending your home in a very short, unplanned period of time. It’s actually very different circumstances.”
The interim CEO may have to revisit that stance after new video evidence emerged that contradicted Cleary's excuse for the virus breach.
Cleary in more hot water over incriminating video
The NSW State of Origin star apologised for his actions and said the girls were his sister’s friends and only there for about 10 minutes.
He also claimed he didn’t know photos had been taken of him.
However new videos of Cleary dancing with the girls for a Tik Tok video appear to contradict those claims.
The videos show Cleary fully aware he was being recorded and willingly participating in the dance.
According to The Daily Telegraph the NRL were shown the videos on Wednesday morning and the integrity unit is investigating.
The NSW State of Origin star labelled his behaviour “naive” in an apology for breaking social-distancing laws on Anzac Day.
Cleary explained while what he did was wrong, a visit from the group of girls was unplanned and he was unaware a photo was taken.
“My sister's friends and girls that I have grown up with were drinking down the road on the street and they came by and popped in and said they were just waiting for an Uber before they went to someone else's house,” he said, estimating the group was in his house for no longer than 10 minutes.
“Obviously in the time that they were here there was a photo taken, I had no idea about it until this morning.”