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Racial slur stings Williams

Taking a stand: Darrell Williams has sent a letter to NRL CEO Dave Smith about racism.

Taking a stand: Darrell Williams has sent a letter to NRL CEO Dave Smith about racism. Photo: Edwina Pickles


The NRL is embroiled in a racism scandal after former New Zealand fullback Darrell Williams claimed he was the victim of racial abuse during a recent Manly board meeting.

Williams has written to NRL chief executive Dave Smith to complain he was referred to by the racially derogatory term ''boy'' by fellow director Rick Penn during a board meeting on April 4. Williams took offence to the comment, which was noted in the minutes kept from the meeting.

Williams, who played 21 Tests for the Kiwis, claims the term was used ''to demean me, to talk down to me and treat me like a second-rate citizen''. ''In the context that he said it and the effect he wanted it to have, it was racist, absolutely,'' Williams told Fairfax Media.

''To have to resort to addressing me like that is a new low, which I'm not going to tolerate. He didn't apologise. He made it worse when he tried to justify himself by saying: 'I've dealt with your kind before'. I'm thinking 'how big a hole do you want to dig?' He did what he did because he knew what he wanted to achieve - to demean me, to talk down to me and treat me like a second-rate citizen.

''For me it was racist in that context and it's why I took offence to it. Don't call me a 'boy'. History will show that it has not been used in a positive light, certainly not in the way he spoke to me.''

At the 1979 Logie Awards, Bert Newton generated international headlines when he said to Muhammad Ali ''I like the boy''. Newton apologised for the use of the term, which has historically been used to denigrate black Americans.

Williams claimed Penn never apologised, that his son, chairman Scott, failed to sanction him and they tried to have the incident scrubbed from the minutes at a subsequent board meeting.

''In the second meeting when they said, 'We didn't believe it was offensive, how can you be offended?' - it's not for him to determine whether it's offensive,'' Williams said. ''I took offence to something that was said, that's the definition of feeling the victim of a racist remark. In the sanctity of the boardroom there are certain levels of etiquette and decorum. That's why I got offended, because he should have had more control.

''You can't talk to me - or anyone - like that. I'm not going to let it ride.''

Rick Penn confirmed the issue was raised at a subsequent board meeting. ''It was brought up in the board meeting the other day and it was discounted,'' Rick Penn said. ''There's nothing to talk about … there was no further discussion on it.''

Pressed on whether he used the term, he declined to comment.

The issue of racism in sport and society has been a major talking point after Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes was called an ''ape'' by a 13-year spectator during last weekend's win against Collingwood. The issue flared again when Magpies president Eddie McGuire made light of the situation on Melbourne radio.

Williams has previously shown he is prepared to stand up for his principles when, as one of the members of the NRL judiciary panel in 2008, they instigated legal action over comments from a post-match press conference following Melbourne's win in the grand final qualifier. Defamation proceedings against Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and then-CEO Brian Waldron were ended following an out-of-court settlement.

''This is an issue that needs to be taken care of and it's topical at the moment,'' Williams said. ''I'm pretty sure I would have done something whether Adam Goodes was on the front page this week or not because I feel strongly about it. I told my kids I was going to go on with this and they said, 'Dad, you don't need anybody to talk to you like that'. That's why I want to do something about it. I'm disappointed, I'm sad it can happen from somebody with a supposed level of business acumen. Certainly the chairman should have done something about it but didn't.''

Asked what he hoped to achieve by going public, the former Manly and Parramatta player said: ''I'd like [Rick Penn] to offer an apology and offer to stand down. I'd also like Scott, under these circumstances, to stand down from the chairmanship. There's a reason why we've had two votes of no-confidence in this guy. Because the chairman is supposed to show certain qualities, like leadership. I feel there is no protection from him. There should be. I should be comfortable going to another meeting knowing it will never happen again. I don't have that.''

26 comments so far

  • Commentators Hadley and Gould often refer to non white NRL players as BOY....whats new?

    Silas Knight
    Date and time
    June 02, 2013, 12:28AM
    • What's new is that this "boy" statement comes from the most disfunctional Manly board room of all time.

      Date and time
      June 02, 2013, 8:45PM
    • Except in this instance, it was an attempt by Penn to silence another Director by racist means. This is deplorable and unacceptable. If Penn doesn't have to command of his mother tongue to make a point, he certainly is in the wrong place and Darrell is right to bring this man to account for his racist tendencies.

      Date and time
      June 03, 2013, 9:27AM

    Date and time
    June 02, 2013, 7:43AM
    • A racist would refer to me as a "white" person and my wife as a "black" person.

      We both think the Adam Goodes and this incident are just outrageously ridiculous.

      These are people with inferiority complexes. It's the individual's personal problem and not mine or anybody else.

      We want a happy fair society where everybody is treated equally and respectfully. The heart of the problem is the rejection of all other cultures by the indigenous.

      A good laugh
      This story
      Date and time
      June 02, 2013, 8:18AM
      • I never realised that the word "boy" was a racist term. I'm 27 and very much against racism and like most people around my age had anti-racism lessons at high school but not once was the term "boy" mentioned. It scares me now that when I am on the sidelines cheering on my footy teams after a game with lines like "well played boys" or "great win boys" that someone either player or spectator alike will take offence.

        Date and time
        June 02, 2013, 8:31AM
        • Darryl, build a bridge. If you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen. As a paid up member of the Leagues and football club I can say we want the Penns. You are undermining our season. Go away and grow up.

          Red Sea Eagle
          Date and time
          June 02, 2013, 9:14AM
          • Wow, I can imagine the names that players are called and call other players on the playing arena but once players exit the game they become 'girls'..oops sorry if I've offended anyone!..So you get called a boy...has that got anything to do with racism??? What race exactly?? I thought all races had 'boys' in them?? Live wih it and move on... This world has gone mad! We're not talking racism here, we're talking ego deflation! If you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen BOY!

            Date and time
            June 02, 2013, 9:37AM
            • OMFG what has the world come to? Now a New Zealander is using American Racism to try force a man to resign, is there another agenda at play?. It might surprise some people to know that people can use the term Boy to refer to someone younger. Bert Newton wasn't being racist, Even Muhammad Ali could see that. Yes boy can be used to belittle your opinion and Penn might have had this intent, but to throw American racism on it is sad.

              Date and time
              June 02, 2013, 9:48AM
              • I reckon we'd all want to be very careful interpreting anything that comes out of the Manly board at the moment.

                Date and time
                June 02, 2013, 10:18AM

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