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Warren Ryan quits ABC job over racism row

"The ABC has suspended me pending an investigation, so I have resigned to save them the trouble of conducting it": Ryan.

"The ABC has suspended me pending an investigation, so I have resigned to save them the trouble of conducting it": Ryan. Photo: Stefan Moore

Warren Ryan has sensationally handed in his resignation to long-time employer ABC, ending an association with rugby league that has stretched over five decades.

Ryan and fellow commentator David Morrow had been stood down pending an investigation into allegations he made a racist remark that went to air a fortnight ago.

The premiership-winning coach, who made a successful transition to the media, was alleged to have used the term "old darky" during the call of the recent Sydney Roosters-Canterbury match.

The 73-year-old made no apologies for the remark, which has effectively cut short a career spanning more than two decades at the station.

"The ABC has suspended me pending an investigation, so I have resigned to save them the trouble of conducting it," Ryan said.

"I have outlined my reasons for not wanting to continue there in a letter to them. As for the injustice done to David Morrow in standing him down, he wasn't even listening when I was comparing a blow-up on the field between the ref and a player to a scene in the film Gone with the Wind.

"David was busy retrieving other sports results from his smartphone. He only rejoined the commentary as I finished describing the humorous movie scene.

"The word used to describe the character was a direct quote from the film. There was no offence intended, so I won't be apologising. It would be insincere.

"Furthermore, there is no appeasing those who are determined to be offended. So that's it. I've had a long run and, for the most part, it's been very enjoyable. In effect, I've brought forward my intended end of season retirement date."

ABC management stood the veteran callers down after Ryan was heard to say: " 'There's a line in a movie where the old darky says, someone says, 'quittin' time'.

''He said, 'it's not quittin' time, I say quittin' time'. Then he yells out 'quittin' time!'

''In other words, you mustn't do that, that's our job.''

Morrow is being investigated over why he found the commentary humorous.

Ryan, who first made an impression on rugby league in Sydney when he was signed by St George as a junior from Newcastle in 1964, has been one of the most influential figures in the game.

Generations of fans have grown up listening to him call matches but his greatest contribution has been with clipboard in hand.

The man known as "Wok" is a two-time premiership-winning coach who has guided five first-grade clubs to finals footy.

A former first-grade player himself, Ryan was known for his tactical nous and many of the attacking and defensive innovations he brought into the game as a coach are still being aped by the mentors of today.

He was due to retire from commentary duties at the end of the season to spend more time travelling with his wife.

166 comments

  • congrats on the action you have taken Warren - I think most fair minded people can understand you meant no offence.

    All the best for your retirement

    Commenter
    craig the speculator
    Location
    Raby
    Date and time
    June 08, 2014, 12:18AM
    • Warren won't be missed.

      Commenter
      Foghorn Leghorn
      Date and time
      June 08, 2014, 12:26AM
      • Speak for yourself pal.
        Ryan and Morrow have been the best commentary team around. They will be missed by radio listeners all over. If you think we lose nothing with the loss of one of the best coaches in history then you have not been listening.

        Commenter
        Osmium Gus
        Location
        Rural NSW
        Date and time
        June 09, 2014, 12:24PM
    • The sooner the ABC move Norenburgs on the better. Whilst Wok is a bit slower these days his humour and insight are lost on ignorant Gen Y's. They might as well sack Lord Thirsty as well and leave us with a bunch of no name callers and exceptionally dull experts. If I was LT, I'd bugger off as well and go somewhere where my calling talents - honed at the races - are appreciated. No wonder Triple M is winning new listeners all the time with real rugby league folks and talented young callers like Maroon and Ginnane. Well done Wok, but sad to see you go.

      Commenter
      Andy Randwick
      Location
      Potts Point
      Date and time
      June 08, 2014, 12:29AM
      • Thanks for all the good work you did over the years Warren...you weren't my favourite commentator but I always listened closely to your highly qualified opinion. I don't believe racist comments have a place in our society but what you said was at the very low end of the scale...thankfully you didn't pretend you were something you weren't and do the fake apology thing...please take note Eddie McGuire.

        Commenter
        Soot
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        June 08, 2014, 1:01AM
        • Ryan is right. The words he used are taken from the film Gone with the Wind and are not racist at all. Good on you Wok! Unlike the chinless spineless PC idiots demanding your and David Morrow's heads, you have actually achieved something significant in your life, especially as a premiership winning rugby league coach and you will be missed. Best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement.

          Commenter
          curaeus
          Date and time
          June 08, 2014, 1:02AM
          • good riddance. a terrible, inarticulate commentator.

            Commenter
            alex
            Location
            sydney
            Date and time
            June 08, 2014, 1:04AM
            • This is a case of political correctness madness, Warren was not being derogatory when he said what he said. We are taking things to far, lets remove the words "white", "black", "light"and "dark" from our vocabulary so we have no more issues.

              Commenter
              Tezza rabbit
              Location
              Caringbah
              Date and time
              June 08, 2014, 1:29AM
              • How awful that a beloved and well-meaning caller of the game was suspended in such a way. This episode has revealed the pettiness that blights the ABC. It is of course an indispensable and terrific institution overall, but Warren Ryan is right when he says there is no point in appeasing those who are determined to be offended. The many rugby league listeners who have delighted in Wok's charming commentary over the years won't let the pedants behind this affair mar his exit from broadcasting.

                Commenter
                Blossom
                Date and time
                June 08, 2014, 1:44AM
                • A sad ending to a great career for a nothing comment.
                  Thanks for everything, Wok, you'll be missed.
                  On another note, what's with the ABC? They have one of the best League callers in Australia in Craig Hamilton, but when Morrow is suspended he gets replaced by some mob doing work experience.
                  How the hell does that work?

                  Commenter
                  paulie
                  Location
                  Tighes Hill
                  Date and time
                  June 08, 2014, 1:56AM

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