A very apologetic English rugby player is accepting full responsibility and punishment for offensive homophobic remarks he made during a Rugby Football League event in Warrington last week.
After an investigation into the claim that 22-year-old Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker called a referee a “fucking fag” during the televised event, the RFL issued a full five-game suspension for Hardaker. His comments, which were originally spotted by fans on the live telecast, also cost him a £300 (~$500) fine.
Before the RFL investigated the claims, Hardaker issued an apology. “First and foremost, I’d like to apologise for any offence my comments during that game have caused,” he said. “I would especially like to apologise to Michael Monaghan.” At the time, he also admitted that the slur was directed at the opposing team’s captain Michael Monaghan, not referee James Child, as was originally reported.
In the heat of the game, I have used an offensive term and I can honestly say I was deeply saddened when I found out after the game how my comment had been perceived.
During the investigation, I was made aware that the referee on the night, James Child, also heard my comment and was offended by it. I would like to unreservedly apologise to him for that and I can assure him that no offence was intended toward him.
As professional players, we know that we have an obligation to conduct ourselves in the right manner for the good of the game at all times. That includes with our team-mates, opponents, officials and, of course, supporters at the ground and those watching at home on television. My comments fell below those standards.
After hearing of the suspension that will sideline him until mid-July, Hardaker tweeted the following:
Thankyou everyone for ur support, 5 games it is. You live and learn and that's life, so I'll just make sure I come out better for it #LIFE
— Zak Hardaker (@zakhardaker1) June 10, 2014
Leeds head coach Brian McDermott has praised Hardaker’s handling of the situation, issuing the following statement:
Leeds have said they will stand by their player, with head coach Brian McDermott saying: ‘We welcome the fact that Zak has recognised his mistake and we will work with him to make sure that this type of incident does not happen again in the future.
‘As a club and a game, we have always prided ourselves on how inclusive and welcoming our sport is and this incident, and the reaction to it, shows how seriously we all take this matter.
‘We were pleased that the panel made a particular point of saying that they did not believe that Zak had meant his comment as a homophobic remark and that they considered that Zak was not homophobic.
‘The club has worked hard to raise the issue of anti-homophobia in the past and we remain committed to working against all forms of discrimination.’
In other news, Zak Hardaker just became the walking definition of “spornosexual.”