Rugby club slammed for racism

Individuals in UYRUFC have been condemned by students for posting offensive racial slurs on the club Twitter account. Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Individuals in UYRUFC have been condemned by students for posting offensive racial slurs on the club Twitter account. Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Individuals in the University of York rugby club look to face severe disciplinary action after posting several highly racist comments on the clubs’ official Twitter account last Thursday.

The tweets, which were posted at around midnight on the UYRUFC account, included racial slurs such as the highly offensive N-word, as well as the statement “pack of third years getting fucking shitfaced in Leeds…BLACK.” The Twitter account has 149 followers from both within and outside of the University.

Whilst the comments were made on the official rugby club Twitter account, two individuals have now been found responsible following an internal club investigation, and have been stripped of all committee positions, rights and privileges, expelled from the rugby club, and will be made to pay any financial punishment the club may receive as a result.

Students and YUSU Officers have reacted in outrage against the openly racist remarks, particularly since they were made in an open and public forum. Sam Asfahani, York Sport President, said: “It is undeniable these are terrible posts, particularly as they were made on a public forum. As an ethnic minority myself, I believe in zero tolerance towards racism.”

The full scope of the disciplinary action is to be decided by the YUSU trustee board, a body with overarching power over York Sport and YUSU. This gives them the authority to impose fines, match bans, expulsion from York Sport or even full expulsion for breach of the University’s Equality and Diversity policy.

The policy states that: “The University undertakes publicly and actively to promote good personal and community relations; ensure that staff and students are aware of the procedures for dealing with harassment; train staff to deal firmly, consistently and effectively with racist incidents and harassment or bullying; and ensure that the University continues to play a significant role in tackling racism and harassment within the wider community.

Breach of this Race Equality Policy will be regarded as a serious matter. Where a breach is proved, disciplinary action (which could include dismissal or expulsion) may be taken against those responsible.”

Asfahani fully supported the decision of Union Council to take the incident out of the hands of York Sport and put it to the trustee board to settle on the punishment, calling it “fair. One person shouldn’t play judge, jury and executor.”

He added: “In my personal view there should be some form of punishment, but it should be on the guilty individuals. I hate to see how it is a minority giving the club a bad name.”

Basim Al-Ahmadi, the YUSU Racial Equality Offficer, released a statement condemning the “shameful” actions of the club, and called for a serious YUSU and University response.

“Not only are they representing the University on this public social network, which can result in the tarnishing of the University’s integrity and reputation due to the numerous people who saw these posts, they have offended the black community and anyone for that matter who has a moral conscience,” he said.

“As Racial Equality Officers, we have a duty to protect the welfare and self-respect of ethnic minorities and to champion diversity on this campus and this leads me to act strongly on this matter. We would like to push forward a very strong course of action. We want to strongly penalize the rugby club. This I believe is necessary, measured and reasonable.”

Speaking to Union Council, Al-Ahmadi criticised the failure of the rugby club to apologise immediately, which he argued showed “a lack of initiative and decency.”

However when contacted, Rory McGregor, outgoing rugby President, issued and apology on behalf of the club.

“As soon as we realised what had happened on Friday morning it was deleted, as this is obviously not condoned in any way by the club,” he said. “We have since changed the passwords so whoever did this will no longer be able to voice their opinions via the club.

“I would like to offer the sincerest apology for any offence it may have caused, but would reiterate this should not reflect on the club, but the stupid individual.”

Asfahani added: “To say they did nothing is harsh. Rory deleted the tweets as soon as he was aware of them on Friday morning, and called me immediately to let me know. Myself and Rory are taking it very seriously, and agree that it is not a subject to be taken lightly. We are in no way under the impression it can be passed off as banter.”

Cem Turhan, Langwith Chair, spoke out, commenting “their racist posts disgust and upset me.”

“When I found out about the incident I was shocked and appalled. One of my main upsets is the fact that we as a student union are affiliated with this team. If a society had done the same, I’d expect deratification, and I’m sure a lot of others would.”

The incident has also led to the Racial Equality Officers demanding a new policy framework that directly addresses issues of racism by students on social networking sites or other online public forums. Union Council agreed last week that York Sport would work to put together a new code of conduct for clubs under its remit.

They proposed it provide “concrete reference when acting on future incidents which are similar to this, most specifically, issues regarding racism in relation to public social networking usage by clubs/societies representing the University.”

Al-Ahmadi continued: “We are aware that there is no policy which directly refers to specific incidents such as this, as it hasn’t happened before. This is why an example needs to be set now. The policy outline will have to include the zero-tolerance policy towards racism which YUSU prides itself on.

“Therefore, any form of racist comments made – similar to the ones made by the rugby club – will be penalized with no exception.”

Asfahani spoke in favour of the expansion of the York Sport social policy. “We expanded it this year, and it has done good things, particularly with sports initiations, as we have had no complaints this year. It clearly worked, so we can work to cover and prevent incidents like this.”

Turhan added: “The argument as to what punishment was long, but overall we need to address that what happened is plain wrong.

“I don’t care if it was a joke. Racism is deplorable, and so are those doing the act. The ‘banter culture’ many sports team at York University fits into is all good and fair, but as soon as it affects and infringes upon other people, as it did on Twitter, which of course is a world platform, the boundaries of decency it often already infringes on are broken.

Kallum Taylor, Vanbrugh College Chair, also voiced his support for the disciplining of the rugby club, and proposals for a new code of conduct for sports clubs.

“I fully back this to the hilt” he said. “There could be potential freshers looking at this. We need more than an apology.”

14 comments

  1. Didn’t think happen almost 2 weeks ago? Seems like old news to me. Regardless, punish the individuals, not the club. Can’t believe how anyone could be so stupid and ignorant as to air these views, particularly on such a public forum.

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  2. Glad the Racial Equality people on YUSU are making a strong point of this…looks like its not just a pointless division for those looking to improve their cv’s

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  3. Lets be honest everyone knows the male rugby club behave like complete dicks, it’s hardly front page news, whether it be trying to shag your girlfriend in Ziggys or setting off smoke-bombs in local restaurants. This is the way they are and it wont change, particularly as the University makes a big deal out of their appearances at Roses and those who were punished by the club will undoubtedly be third years who are leaving anyway. I don’t condone the comments, especially on a public forum, but this is the kind of ‘banter’ you will see at the majority of sports clubs at University, the rugby club is no exception in this sense. They also voted for Sam Asfahani in a block vote anyway so its unlikely he’ll punish his mates, and this whole incident will be swept under the carpet by the academic year. Perhaps a few third years will get a fine but as the rugby club is full of arrogant public schoolboys this will hardly dent the bank balance.

    In other words, accept how they behave or stop giving them attention over other sports clubs all the time, they love the publicity and it simply adds to their ‘banter’. Fingers crossed they’ll find a way to screw up the ball for everyone tomorrow then Nouse can write about that as well.

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  4. Interesting how the York Sport President has refused to fine the Rugby Club.

    Also interesting how he didn’t bother turning up to Union Council to defend or even discuss the Rugby Clubs actions.

    I guess he sees Rugby as being above democracy…

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  5. @Debator

    – The Rugby Club will be facing a fine.

    – I missed Union Council, but came for this agenda point. Correct I didnt “bother to defend the Rugby Clubs actions” because they are undefendable. I turned up to give a bit of background info and listen to the debate.

    – I went to Council so that I could know what they would mandate me to do. My exact words at this meeting were “I will do whatever Union Council mandates me to, because York Sport is below this body”. So I do see democracy above York Sport and our clubs.

    However apart from these three mistakes, your comment is flawless.

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  6. Debator, you got burnt. Don’t question Sam’s integrity.

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  7. 22 Jun ’11 at 11:12 am

    Jeremy Gussett

    That is a priceless response from big Sam. Debator got paid.

    On the issue itself, I do wonder whether there should be more far reaching sanctions. It is all very well the President taking a hard-line and the individuals being banned. But this is the outgoing (and graduating) President not the incoming President, and the two individuals are also departing York this year. Under normal circumstances, with normal clubs or societies, it may be that the general good behaviour of the club would warrant the issue staying with the individuals. But the Rugby team are an embarrassment on a regular basis (off the pitch) and have shown they are happy to take the slap on the wrist over and over again.

    If YUSU want the Rugby club to get their house in order they’re gonna need to hand out some pretty firm punishment. I’d ban them from holding socials all next term.

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  8. “If YUSU want the Rugby club to get their house in order they’re gonna need to hand out some pretty firm punishment. I’d ban them from holding socials all next term.”

    how would you implement that?! have sam a standing outside ziggy’s day in day out waiting for the day they turn up…they’re probably all friends anyway so will go out in their respective friendship groups and meet up, if not with rugby soc.

    tbh i think we should name + shame so when future employers google them (if this even happens…) they know they’re racist.

    *this comment has been moderated

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  9. Robert Green, I’m sure the Rugby Club voted for Sam Asfahani because he was the best man for the job, ulterior motives have nothing to do with it.

    Jeremy Gussett, how on earth do you propose banning the Rugby Club from socials, what authority do you, or even the university have, over privately owned bars and clubs?!

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  10. 23 Jun ’11 at 11:18 pm

    Other Sports Clubs

    Isn’t it about time the rugby club as a whole were punished for their actions? How many times do “individuals” commit these actions? Getting a bus stopped by police for nudity and loutish behaviour or trashing a coach and having food and drink banned for all clubs or setting of a smoke grenade in a club, the list goes on and on. Its the mentality of the club as a whole, they believe they are above reprieve and its about time YorkSport and Yusu in general did something about it.

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  11. @ Anon

    I didn’t say the rugby club voted for Sam for ulterior motives did i? What I said was that Sam is unlikely to grass his mates up and fine the entire team. It is perfectly understandable why he wouldn’t because he’s not going to upset his mates. Theres no use pretending much will happen because the people who were kicked out are third years and theres only a week left of term.

    My entire post stated that quite clearly and I dont understand the fuss because we are all aware nothing will happen of any note.

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  12. 30 Jun ’11 at 12:06 pm

    Wood Court Faxer

    in lieu of my previous comment probably not being published: i, amongst many and most of the people at york, severely dislike the rugby club. who are they to get food and drink banned from coaches for the rest of us? scum.

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  13. i am a member of an ethnic minority and fully support zero tolerance of racism in any form. i take comfort in realising disciplinary process hs bn initiated. Real danger is issues to do with racial abuse being swept under the carpet as seems to have happened in the case involving the black Saints prop and the 2 white south african Leinster players

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  14. 17 Feb ’12 at 8:06 pm

    Devils Advocate

    “As an ethnic minority myself” – This does not help at all to any racism debate in the slightest. Why should your ethnicity make any difference on your tolerance levels? Positive discrimination is just as poor as negative discrimination…

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