The AFL world has reacted with shock and anger over footage of Richmond players groping teammate Mabior Chol.
Nick Vlastuin and Jayden Short have apologised to Chol after footage of the pair groping the genitals of their Tigers teammate during post-match team songs went viral on Friday.
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The matter came to light at a Friday media conference with Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, who was asked by a reporter if he was aware of the incidents in the Tigers' dressing room after wins over the Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions.
Hardwick said he was not and later cut short the conference after continued questions on the issue.
The club released a statement late Friday saying it had “become aware of some player behaviour during post-match team songs recently that is unacceptable and not in line with the club or community expectations.”
Vlastuin said in the statement: “It was a stupid action and I am deeply embarrassed. I've apologised to Mabior.”
Short added: “It was unacceptable behaviour and a poor example.”
Chol said he took no offence.
“I have no issue whatsoever with those players, or any of my teammates, but understand that is not the sort of example we should be setting,” Chol said.
The Tigers said they were “committed to providing a safe workplace environment.”
Late on Friday evening footage also emerged of Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt and St Kilda’s Dan Butler performing similar acts in the change-rooms.
AFL world reacts to ‘repulsive’ Richmond footage
According to veteran journalist John Ralph, the AFL are “filthy” with the footage.
“My understanding was (Chol) really was mortified to be dragged into it and didn’t feel like he wanted to be involved. But clearly there is an example that needs to be set,” Ralph said on Fox Footy.
“For all the people out there that say ‘it’s just blokes being blokes’, the AFL tonight is filthy on it.
“They say at the very least a player should have a safe space to play a game of football, which he loves doing, go into the rooms, sing the song and not get touched on the genitalia. I think at the very least we can all agree to that.”
Essendon great Matthew Lloyd said reporter Hugh Rimington should be commended for bringing the “repulsive” footage into the spotlight.
“I think Hugh Riminton has done an amazing thing for our game because what he’s done is he’s put the spotlight on it,” Lloyd said on 3AW.
So judge for yourself - is it a fair dinkum part of sport to have a team-mate stick his fingers up your bum? My report on the story no-one in Melbourne wants to talk about #Richmond pic.twitter.com/vxoYeIYJZO— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) August 7, 2020
“I felt very uncomfortable watching it – I didn’t see at the time, but watching it since – for Mabior Chol. He could be well within his rights to knock Nick Vlaustin out, there and then, with what he did in that song.
“Imagine doing that on Tony Lockett after a game … he’d throw him into a brick wall. Hugh Riminton, what he’s done, is he’s stopped it across the board of the AFL competition.
“Richmond are a great football club but they’d be highly embarrassed because that was repulsive and an invasion on Mabior Chol, what went on.”
AFLW star Tayla Harris took to social media to slam those defending the actions of the Richmond players.
“The justification of this is extraordinary, the comments are unbelievable,” she tweeted.
“These men are role models, kids playing junior footy see this on teli and think it’s okay. IT IS NOT OKAY.
“I don’t care about the ‘boys club’ BS, this is severely inappropriate, grow up.”
The justification of this is extraordinary, the comments are unbelievable. These men are role models, kids playing junior footy see this on teli and think it’s okay. IT IS NOT OKAY. I don’t care about the ‘boys club’ BS, this is severely in appropriate, grow up 🤦🏼♀️ https://t.co/O0SvskwpWP— Tayla Harris (@tayla_harris7) August 7, 2020
While former Gold Coast Suns player Joel Wilkinson described the treatment of Chol as “horrific.”
“Support & care for Mabior Chol. He would be pressured to protect ‘the team culture’,” Wilkinson wrote on Twitter.
“Whilst the AFL framework leaves the expectation for Mabior to decide if he’s offended or not, that does not supersede the racial context to these incidents of racially aggravated sexual abuse.
“A white person groping an African/Black person is horrific and continues a horrendous historical pattern of racial abuse from white culture to black bodies. It must be stopped. @AFL @Richmond_FC you must be stopped.”
A white person groping an African/Black person is horrific and continues a horrendous historical pattern of racial abuse from white culture to black bodies. It must be stopped. @AFL @Richmond_FC you must be stopped.— Joel Wilkinson (@joelwilkinson) August 7, 2020
Good to see a journalist finally ask a direct question to Damien Hardwick regarding the abuse. The media are always scared to question and hold accountable the AFL and those in the industry in regards to black players.— Joel Wilkinson (@joelwilkinson) August 7, 2020
Chol better get the support he needs and better not be gaslit by the club and the community. Richmond are supposed to be the inclusive ones, right?— Bhakthi (@bhakthi) August 7, 2020
I hope that @Richmond_FC Mabior Chol has good people around him, that allow him to express, how he feels when he is ready. Not when media want to fill a headline or other people are ready to move on. https://t.co/gyqK1ljDcU— Shelley Ware (@ShelleyWare) August 7, 2020
Chol would have been in his rights to defend himself and put both of them on their ass. Hardwick trying to take the high ground claiming to be “patient” when asked but refusing to answer is also pathetic.— Martin Hodgson (@MartinGHodgson) August 7, 2020
Both players should be suspended, it’s sexual assault. https://t.co/wZxCGxH29C