Australia

Manly draft formal apology to Human Rights Commission for Fonua-Blake slur

Manly coach Des Hasler has revealed the club is drafting a formal apology to the Australian Human Rights Commission and Anti-Discrimination NSW following Addin Fonua-Blake's vile abuse of referee Grant Atkins.

Fonua-Blake, one of the game's best props, was given a two-match ban and on Friday ordered by the NRL to pay $20,000 towards wheelchair rugby league and volunteer to referee in one of their games after he called Atkins a "f---ing retard".

Hasler took seven minutes to read from a prepared script on Saturday and made it clear the club and Fonua-Blake would do everything to ensure there would never be a repeat of the scenes that unfolded at Brookvale Oval six days earlier.

"I don't want you to think we've taken this long to respond," Hasler said. "As you know, this week has been a challenging week for the club both on and off the field.

"It's just taken this long to respond as we digest everything that has happened and we've gone through due process going forward.

"As you are well aware last Sunday at the conclusion of the game against Newcastle, Addin aggressively challenged Grant Atkins.

Addin Fonua-Blake was sent off for abusing referee Grant Atkins on Sunday night.

Addin Fonua-Blake was sent off for abusing referee Grant Atkins on Sunday night. Credit:NRL.com

"We fully appreciate there are two aspects that required attention.

"The first one was a player exhibiting decency towards a referee and, secondly, the use of a derogatory word that vilifies people with a disability.

"The club could have handled it better.

"With hindsight and external counsel to help provide a greater perspective, a variety of environmental factors and circumstances have contributed to the handling of this matter.

Manly coach Des Hasler.

Manly coach Des Hasler.Credit:Getty

"I need to assure our apology is heard and understood.

"A good apology is one that acknowledges the mistake and then addresses how we make it right.

"The word retard is viewed by those within the disability community as extremely offensive. It's also a contravention of the United Nations convention of the right of persons with disabilities.

"The expulsion of its inappropriate and derogatory use from our vocabulary is critical in creating a civil society.

Addin and Manly acknowledge the use of the term ... has no place in today's civil society.

Manly Coach Des Hasler

"Its removal is as important to the disability community as it is the removal of inappropriate words to the black community, LGBTQ community and to our Australian First Nations people.

"Addin and Manly acknowledge the use of the term ... has no place in today's civil society."

Hasler went one step further by making sure the apology was felt much higher up the food chain than the NRL.

"We are drafting a formal apology to be sent to the Australian Human Rights Commission and delivered in particular to the Disability Discrimination Commissioner Ben Gauntlett," Hasler said.

"We also wish to provide a formal apology to Anti-Discrimination NSW and have directed that to their board and chairperson Annabelle Bennett.

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"We're hoping they're open to Addin attending one of their forth-coming board meetings, COVID protocols pending, to apologise in person."

Dirk Melton, who has worked in sport for years and revealed he had autism several years ago, will also be brought on board to "assist in learning and the development of both Addin and the broader playing group to enhance diversity and inclusion education".

Hasler also made a point of making sure Fonua-Blake's well-being was taken into consideration and he was "not persecuted in an unjust fashion".

Hasler signed off by telling media the club were happy to forward them an information pack with the United Nations' convention on the rights of people with disabilities.

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