Guys (yes, guys): it’s not working.
The National Rugby League is acting tough, banning North Queensland fullback Ben Barba for life after a violent incident with his partner at Townsville’s Ville casino.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg was clear: “We have run out of patience and tolerance for misbehaviour off the field. Violence against women is the very top of that list. If you’re violent against a woman you can expect to be removed from the game. It starts now.”
But how did the “patience” last so long? Why are we “starting” now?
Of course it’s not just the NRL. Women are bashed and even killed at the hands of men at such a rate it would be called a national emergency if it were kids at music festivals.
Greenberg’s words showed what has been missing all these years. League’s action on Barba holds up a mirror to its years of failures, of paying lip service to respect, while changing little.
Former player Billy Moore called all the “respect” stuff a “lie”. “The bar was low for rugby league anyway but I think Ben Barba is the sixth NRL individual (this off-season) to be hauled on of accusations of violence against women,” he fumed.
The “respect” classes players are forced to sit through? They’re not working. “Strengthened protocols” designed with leading feminist advisers? Not working.
It’s come to this: Barba’s former club will employ minders to chaperone its players when they go out – after forward Scott Bolton drunkenly assaulted a woman at the Bondi Beach Public Bar.
Cowboys coach Paul Green almost seemed to get it.
“We have taken steps to make sure that when we do go out in public it’s a safe environment for everyone,” he said.
But then he seemed to be more concerned for the players – ‘cos you can’t get away with it anymore.
“Unfortunately it’s the world we live in these days,” Green said. “[It’s] making sure that when we can see a situation unfolding that we don’t want to put ourselves in we try and nip that in the bud.”
This time, let’s not carry on as if what matters is the image or sake of “the game”. That’s a long way back. I’m talking about women’s right to feel safe, and to actually be safe, in the presence of immensely strong men whose day job and life’s calling is a violent sport. Can we “start” there?