Zero tolerance for all forms of racism

COMMENT

The taunts were bad enough to make a young footballer want to quit the game forever.

The words were ignorant, as much as they were hurtful and abhorrent, but it's a perfect example of why any form of racism must not be tolerated.

For all we know, this kid, or one of his mates, could develop into the next Greg Inglis or Johnathan Thurston and even if they don't, it would be a shame to lose them for such terrible reasons.

During the outcry over Sydney Swans great Adam Goodes being called an "ape" last year, Port Kembla coach Mark Simon told this column the story of how a young boy had copped numerous racist insults during a junior league game.

Afterwards, a number of parents and officials had to console the youngster and encourage him not to walk away.

"It took a few others to talk to him for him to want to keep playing," Simon said at the time.

"The issue is being dealt with, but unfortunately it does happen.

"It does upset you, it's disheartening to see the issue of race raised and hopefully everyone can learn from it."

Less than 12 months later and the issue or racism has reared its ugly head again.

Like the young Port Kembla player, the Goodes incident was sparked by someone too young to realise the full impact of their words.

It spiralled into a broader argument about societal standards and the acceptance of racism, casual or otherwise.

The same defence cannot be applied to the racial slurs which emerged this week.

An 18-year-old Dapto man took to social media website Instagram to call the now Brisbane fullback Ben Barba "a filthy abo".

It may have been the actions of a frustrated Bulldogs fan about a player he revered moving to another club, but the choice of words is unacceptable.

At least he was man enough to personally apologise to Barba and the 2012 Dally M winner accepted it.

"I appreciate that people can make mistakes and I accept the apology offered," Barba said.

"I was once a teenager and made mistakes. I believe as long as this young man receives some education on racial abuse and the effects it has, he can learn from the incident.

"I certainly don't want him lost from our game."

Broncos teammate Sam Thaiday - himself a victim of racial abuse - summed it up by saying, "I think everyone talking about the issue is punishment enough".

The Barba slur is also another cautionary tale about the pitfalls of social media and how easily real damage can be done.

In contrast to the Dapto teen's ignorance, NRL players are put through tutorials on the use of social media platforms.

Just yesterday, a tweeter called West Coast's superstar ruckman Nic Naitanui the "n" word in response to a reference to a Bible verse.

When will people learn?

Wollongong footballer Brendon Santalab was also accused of racist comments and cultural insensitivity during a heated A-League Sydney derby exchange with rival Ali Abbas.

This column has only interviewed Santalab a couple of times and he is a genuinely nice guy, but if the alleged words did come from his mouth, he should have apologised.

At the very least, clear the air about Abbas's extraordinary reaction during the game.

A clear message needs to be sent to every young player about what is acceptable.

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