Wing Sevu Reece was in 2019 picked for the All Blacks, despite having pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner. Picture: Andrew CORNAGA/AFP
Wing Sevu Reece was in 2019 picked for the All Blacks, despite having pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner. Picture: Andrew CORNAGA/AFP

Dismal failure by All Blacks to address gender-based violence among players

By Mark Keohane Time of article published Sep 3, 2021

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SPORTS teams like the All Blacks like to preach on all forms of morality from a pedestal so high you wonder whether there is an oxygen supply up there, because their actions don't match the message when it comes to gender-based violence (GBV).

I have been appalled by the lack of appetite among New Zealand rugby's leadership to address GBV when it concerns All Black players.

Winger Sevu Reece was in 2019 picked for the All Blacks, despite having pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner. However, the All Blacks coach of the time, Steven Hansen, whose previous profession was in the police force, defended Reece's inclusion and said that domestic violence was not a gendered issue.

ALSO READ: All Blacks coach under fire for domestic violence comments

Reece pleaded guilty to assault against a female, but was discharged without conviction after a judge ruled that it would have a detrimental effect on his rugby career!

One could argue, only in New Zealand – and only because it involves an All Black rugby player.

I have always been an admirer of the All Blacks as a team. I love the way they play the game and I have history with the country, given my late mom was a Kiwi and most of my family are New Zealanders.

But if I love the All Blacks' style of rugby, I detest those who feed the myth that the black jersey makes for a better human being and that being an All Black is greater and more significant than just playing a game of rugby.

If it was then these abusers of women would not be wearing the jersey. The New Zealand Rugby Union parades the players as saints, when the sinners among them should have no rights to wearing that jersey, no matter how good their rugby-playing ability.

If a sports organisation is to take a stand against GBV, as New Zealand Rugby professes to do, then it should never tolerate those sinners who have assaulted a female.

Hansen's defence of Reece two years ago was ridiculous, and even more outrageous was how New Zealand rugby in the past month defended the position of All Black Shannon Frizell, and felt a one-Test suspension was just punishment for his assault of a female and then subsequent threats to her and her partner.

How does anyone take seriously the talk from the All Blacks leadership about issues that extend into society when they consistently refuse to act against those criminals within the team set-up?

Hansen had said from his 20-year experience in the police that women also assaulted men, and that domestic violence was not a gender thing.

Hansen rightly took a beating from social media commentators for such an outdated and outmoded attitude.

A change of coach for the All Blacks has not brought a change of attitude because a Neanderthal like Shannon Frizell continues to wear a black jersey that supposedly speaks to a value system that inspires people.

Frizell punched a female in the face and was charged with two incidents of male-on-female assault. He further sent this social media message to a friend of the woman he had assaulted: “F*** you b **** tell your friend to hide … I'm gonna f*** everyone's up … f*** with the wrong guy.”

Frizell admitted guilt and was lauded for apparently showing remorse. Chris Lendrum, the New Zealand Rugby general manager of professional rugby and performance, said Frizell had accepted responsibility and “given the seriousness of this incident, we felt that a two-match stand-down was warranted. He has shown regret.” What the …

Frizell slapped the woman in the face and thereafter punched her in the face, which split her lip and nose. Yet he gets to play in this month's Rugby Championship. It isn't right when a team with such influence and with the means to change perceptions reinforces the belief that there will never be consequences to their male players hitting a woman.

More than it not being right, it is so wrong.

@mark_keohane

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