NRL boss David Smith says the governing body has learnt it’s lesson from their inaction over former Newcastle player Ryan Stig’s anti-gay rant and will come down harshly on any future vilification.
Stig became embroiled in controversy last October after making homophobic comments on social media disparaging gay marriage.
The former half-back uploaded a letter on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter that compared homosexuality to alcoholism and a “politically correct charade” that was “demonic” and equal to a “spiritual disease”.
The Knights released a statement at the time distancing themselves from the issue, saying the comments were solely Stig’s opinion and not reflective of the the club.
The NRL didn’t make any statement nor did it deem Stig’s comments a breach of the anti-vilification policy within it’s code of conduct.
Smith, who on Wednesday joined the heads of Australia’s four football codes in speaking out against homophobia in sport, admitted the NRL should have acted.
“We still have moments where I’m not proud of something which happens in our game, like when one of our players made the most disparaging remarks about homosexuality last year,” he said.
“We should have been stronger about our condemnation of those remarks.
“We’ve learned from that experience and we’ll take a harder line against anyone in our game making such appalling comments today.
“That’s why the NRL wants to be part of this campaign about homophobia.”
Stig, who played 13 NRL games in 2011, hasn’t played for the past two seasons due to an eye injury.
Last November the Knights decided not to offer him a new contract this campaign.
But while Stig went unpunished for his homophobic slurs, Smith says the NRL will take strong action on any similar incident in future.
He says there will be a range of punishments including match-bans and fines in response to any type of discrimination.
“Our code of conduct allows a rage of responses, but what’s important is that everything is proportional,” he told AAP.
“But where there is any type of vilification that is outside our code of conduct you will see us respond much more strongly.
“Our policy settings need to be right, our education and welfare needs to be strong, our communication to everyone involved in the game needs to be strong and where requited, our response needs to be strong.”