Names sparks ‘ca­sual racism’ claim

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT -

“It’s a shame that the penny is still not drop­ping,” he said.

“I don’t think these guys re­alise these names are not just con­nected to the play­ers, but to the com­mu­ni­ties and the land and the an­ces­tors in the past.

“But it’s also the fu­ture where it will do the most dam­age, be­cause in the video, they’ve got some kids who are just in­no­cent by­standers in all this, but they’re al­most al­low­ing these kids the free­dom to ridicule those names they can’t pro­nounce prop­erly.”

Va­gana, who has prob­a­bly suf­fered his share of mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tion over the years, ad­mit­ted play­ers had grown used to this treat­ment.

“I spoke to Sammy about it and he said he had watched the show with his fam­ily,” he said. “It wasn’t un­til then that he re­alised that, as a player and an elite ath­lete in the sys­tem, you be­come de­sen­si­tised to it . . . you just block it out.

“But, for him, it was the first time that he re­alised it was the same name as his wife and kids.

“A lot of peo­ple have con­tracted me from the com­mu­nity in New Zealand and Aus­tralia that are pretty up­set by it. It’s al­most to the point where they’ve given up hope — they say it’s Aus­tralia, they’re like that, but it still doesn’t make it right.”

The show seg­ment was par­tic­u­larly in­sen­si­tive given the past ac­cu­sa­tions lev­elled at com­men­ta­tors and their man­gling of Poly­ne­sian names, some of them among the big­gest and most recog­nis­able in the game.

Fi­jian and Par­ra­matta Eels winger Semi Radradra is an­other to suf­fer at the hands of the game call­ers.

“There’s a guy who scored four tries the other night, but a cou­ple of nights ear­lier, they were ridi­cul­ing his name on TV,” said Va­gana. “We need to stop that stuff.”

He drew a par­al­lel with protests dur­ing the cur­rent NFL pre-sea­son, where mainly black play­ers, but now more whites, are draw­ing at­ten­tion to racism in the United States by kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

“They’re hav­ing clashes all over this space . . . it’s some­thing, hope­fully, we won’t get to.

“But we’re at a point now where our game can teach Aus­tralia how to do it right. In New Zealand, we’ve had com­men­ta­tors who have been call­ing names cor­rectly for years.

“We’re about 30-40 years bet­ter cul­tur­ally. Our coun­try is re­ally spe­cial, and if we can take some of those learn­ings and share them with oth­ers, start­ing with our neigh­bours, they may get to un­der­stand how to live in har­mony a bit bet­ter.”


Si­mon Man­ner­ing says it’s “all about get­ting the win each week, whether it is pretty or ugly”. LLLLL 26 18-22 LLWLL 22

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