A bunch of footballers from the Canterbury Bankstown rugby league team are alleged to have raped someone. The evidence that a group of these footballers were engaging in an orgy in a public place at dawn (whether or not it was consensual sex) seems compelling. Notably, it has not been denied. These grown men and their colleagues are understandably called upon to grace the constabulary with their presence. Some elements of the community would regard this as an occasion on which one might dress formally both as a matter of respect and as a matter of presentation. One might want to give the idea of being an upstanding citizen rather than everyone’s image of a rapist.
Some might think that way but, as anyone with a passing association with the criminal justice system knows, that is not how most accused of a crime see it. Criminal barristers will tell you they pray for their clients to turn up to their own trials in something more than thongs and stubbies. A great many people think that standard of dress is appropriate and good luck to them. Apparently, however, at the Bulldogs it’s not the responsibility of your average footballer to put on a button up shirt and footwear with laces when they go off to see the boys in blue. That was Gary Hughes’ job.
This group of men (if media reports are to be believed) apparently have promiscuous women dote upon them in ways that would send the average teenager racing with his linen to the laundry. These men are paid salaries of which our “overpaid” politicians could only ever dream. These men do nothing but play sport and train to play sport; the sort of thing their fellow citizens fit in around working for a living or going to school. Now, as if their lives were not tough enough already, their manager has forgotten to check up to see what they put on their feet.
Forgive me, but is it not at the heart of this scandal that these players seem to take no responsibility for their own actions; that they have no regard for anything other than immediate gratification? What sort of message does sacking someone for failing to dress them properly, send? These people think they can do what they want, and when it goes bad, blame it on someone else.
When a girl gets raped again in similar circumstances, and there is every reason to suspect that will happen, there will be another outcry and a media management exercise from the football club involved. There will be a scapegoat and maybe even a player charged but what there will not be, if history and the present are to teach us, is any attempt to change the culture so that the bastards who do this sort of thing are held to account.
Gary Hughes was probably in his room fast asleep when a bunch of his players were having sex poolside. He has been sacked while those players are taking the field every weekend. I am not saying it was rape but as far as I can work out the fact of the orgy is not questioned, only the consent (or lack thereof) between the participants. Even if it was not rape, do the Bulldogs regard that as acceptable behaviour? Do they want to associate with people who get pissed and engage in a gangbang at a hotel pool at daybreak? Do they think that such behaviour is minor, by comparison to Gary Hughes’ deficiency as a personal groomer?
The club’s unprincipled approach appears to have been the brainchild of Steve Mortimer who, until a few days ago, was the club’s chief executive. He convinced the board of the necessity to sack Hughes, apparently threatening to resign himself. He ended up having to resign, as the club begins to disintegrate. An unprincipled approach to resolving a crisis of morality often leads deeper into the morass. Steve Mortimer found this out when the very players under suspicion, convinced the board to force his hand as well. Peter Mortimer, Steve’s brother, outraged at all of this has also resigned.
Now the Bulldogs are devoid of leadership and under the influence inter alia of players who, frankly, have no business leading what is called “the family club”. The Board, which only a little while ago was convinced that Mortimer was right to insist upon Hughes being sacked and players being disciplined, was then convinced that the act of discipline was wrong and that Mortimer should go too. Now Steve Mortimer knows how Gary Hughes feels.
There are so many ways in which our culture is one that removes from people their individual burdens of personal responsibility. One of the side effects of that is that it removes inhibitions. As a consequence, people get hurt. If the Bulldogs will not hang out to dry the real wrongdoers and be content with a scapegoat or two, then maybe the NRL ought to think about suspending the whole team. Or can a team only be kicked out if it hasn’t got the cash, à là Souths?
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