Spencer Leniu's staggering claim about Adam Goodes as NRL judiciary hands down big ban

The Sydney Roosters prop has learned his fate after abusing Ezra Mam.

Spencer Leniu has been hit with an eight-game suspension after the NRL judiciary rejected his argument that he didn't use the term 'monkey' in a racist way when he abused Ezra Mam. Leniu admitted at the judiciary on Monday night that he told Mam to "f*** up you monkey" during the Roosters and Broncos clash in Las Vegas.

The Roosters recruit, who was playing his first game for the club since joining from Penrith, said he thought he was "one brown man saying something to another brown man" and argued that he didn't realise the racial connotations of the comment. He argued that players of colour in NRL squads regularly called each other names including "blacky", "monkey" and "black c***".

Spencer Leniu and Adam Goodes.
Spencer Leniu said he hadn't heard of Adam Goodes or the racial abuse he received. Image: Getty

"At the time I thought it was one brown man saying something to another brown man," Leniu told the panel of Sean Hampstead, Bob Lindner and Geoff Bellew. "The use of words is so common. This game happened so fast and in that split second I said a word, I didn't know any meaning to it.

"I didn't know how much that meant to the Indigenous community and his family. It was just one of those things. I tackled someone, they said something to me and I said something to them."


Leniu apologised to Mam and said he'd offered to fly to Brisbane to meet with him face-to-face. "There is no room for racism in this game," he said. "I'm glad he brought this thing up. I had no racial intent towards Ezra and the Indigenous community. I love them and their culture. I don't think there'd be a game without those people."

Spencer Leniu, pictured here at the NRL judiciary.
Spencer Leniu at the NRL judiciary.

When asked by Gyles if he was aware of previous incidents such as those involving Adam Goodes at the Sydney Swans, or other racial slurs involving references to monkeys or apes, Leniu made the staggering claim that he was not and hadn't heard of Goodes at all. Gyles responded by saying that "most people who have been in Australia for 15 years would know it would ordinarily be racism to call someone a monkey".

Goodes was called an ape by a 13-year-old girl during the Swans' clash with Collingwood during Indigenous round in 2013. The Swans champion asked for security to remove the girl from the SCG, which led to him being booed during games by opposition fans before he eventually retired in 2015. The AFL later admitted it didn't do enough to support Goodes and should have done more to stop the booing.

Ezra Mam's emotional statement at NRL judiciary

In a statement provided to the panel on Monday night, Mam said he saw red after Leniu's slur and was "angry" and "disappointed". The Indigenous star detailed the hurt felt by him and his family, something the panel said they took into consideration when handing down the ban to Leniu.

The Roosters prop said his post-match comments in which he labelled the incident "banter" came because of a lack of knowledge that his slur was racist, and he was only made aware of the history around the word "monkey" when contacted by an Indigenous woman the next morning. Bellew said the panel "did not accept the player's claimed ignorance" and rejected calls from Leniu's lawyer James McLeod for a four-match ban.

Roosters and NRL boss respond to Spencer Leniu ban

After the hearing, Roosters CEO Joe Kelly said all players and staff would be put through an education program. NRL boss Andrew Abdo praised the response of Mam, while also calling for Leniu to be supported.

"I have spoken to Ezra to commend him for speaking up and taking a stand," Abdo said. "It has been warming to see the game rally around him during this time.

"I also acknowledge Spencer Leniu's genuine remorse and apology and ask everyone to consider his wellbeing after a testing time in his young career. We are human beings and we make mistakes. That is how we all learn and grow."

The eight-game ban means Leniu will miss the return match against Brisbane in round nine. He will make his comeback the following week against the Warriors on May 12.

with AAP

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