NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has promised bans for anyone found to have racially abused players after a group of spectators were marched from Central Coast Stadium on Friday night.
Eight people were ejected from the match in Gosford for allegedly racially abusing Penrith winger Brent Naden during the Panthers’ win over the New Zealand Warriors.
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The 24-year-old Naden told club staff the abuse was persistent and he was shaken by the behaviour, which came to a head towards the end of the first half.
Police and security rounded on the group, who were predominantly wearing Warriors jerseys.
It's understood Naden reported the abuse to the Penrith trainer, who took action to have the group removed from the ground.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said he was proud of Naden for standing up for himself and reporting the abuse.
"He's OK; he said that it's not the first time he's heard that in his life but in this forum it has been, so he's a little bit... he certainly took offence to it at the time but he's OK," Cleary said.
"It's one of those situations where you can only react how you feel at the time.
"Whatever was said, and I don't know exactly what was said, it definitely affected him and by the sounds of it the appropriate action was taken and what happens from here I'm not too sure."
NRL vows action over Brent Naden racial abuse
In the past the NRL issued bans for those found to have racially abused players and in a statement issued on Friday night, the governing body once again promised to take the strongest possible action.
"Racism and vilification will not be tolerated in our game," Abdo's statement read.
"Bringing communities and cultures together is part of rugby league.
"We pride ourselves on being inclusive and taking a leadership role in driving social change.
"Any fan found to have racially abused a player or another fan will not be welcome at our games.
"We have shown in the past that we will take the strongest possible action to ensure fans guilty of racial abuse are banned from attending the Telstra Premiership.
"We will work closely with NSW police, stadium authorities and the clubs to determine the facts and take decisive action against anyone guilty of racial abuse.
"Later tonight, I will call any player involved to ensure they are receiving the support they need. We will always stand by our players."
League legends, fans call for life bans
Sympathy for the group ejected for the alleged racial abuse was not forthcoming online or by greats of the game, with Andrew Johns calling for life bans for the group.
“It’s just not acceptable,” Johns said during Channel 9’s broadcast of the game.
“We don’t want these sorts of people in the NRL and if they’re found guilty, they should be banned for life.”
Panthers great turned prominent media commentator Greg Alexander labelled the group of fans ‘a disgrace’ and expressed a similar sentiment to Johns.
“These clowns should never get into an NRL game again and their pictures should be up on every home ground to make sure they don‘t enter the ground because if this is true, that’s the end of those blokes, they’ve seen their last live game,” he said.
The ejected fans were also roundly condemned on social media, with former NRL heavyweight Willie Mason describing them as ‘filthy racist pricks’.
“The filthy racist pricks that got booted out of Gosford for racial abuse towards Brent Naden should be named and shamed all through the media and never be allowed to watch any professional game live in Australia,” he posted.
The filthy racist pricks that got booted out of Gosford for racial abuse towards Brent Naden should be named and shamed all through the media and never be allowed to watch any professional game live in Australia. @nrl @MasonsTake— Willie Mason WMM 💯🇦🇺🇹🇴 (@mase21) August 14, 2020
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but as we acknowledged a couple of weeks ago, indigenous people are part of the fabric of rugby league. The reprehensible person who taunted Brent Naden should never be allowed to attend again. We don’t want you. #NRLWarriorsPanthers @NRLonNine— Mathew Thompson (@MathewJThompson) August 14, 2020
If reports 10 blokes were racially abusing Brent Naden + have been tossed from Central Coast Stadium are true, they should all be barred from attending any form of footy for life.— Sam Phillips (@samphillips06) August 14, 2020