Featherstone winger Ben Blackmore has been banned for 10 weeks after being found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute by posting a racist comment on social media.
The 28-year-old was referred by the Rugby Football League to its compliance department over for a tweet he posted in pre-season about a black former team-mate Rob Worrincy, who plays for Sheffield.
Blackmore, who played in Super League for Huddersfield in 2013 and 2014, was charged with three breaches of the RFL’s operational rules and found guilty when he appeared in front of an operational rules tribunal.
In addition to bringing the game into disrepute, Blackmore was found guilty of failing to observe codes of conduct and unacceptable language or behaviour.
The hearing was told Blackmore posted a reply to a Sheffield team picture saying: ‘Who’s the locked player?’, a term used in computer gaming where particular players have their identity or character hidden by being silhouetted and their faces being blacked.
The RFL says it received several complaints, including one from Worrincy, who said “it made me feel a combination of emotions from anger, upset and disappointment”.
Blackmore, a full-time player, was represented at the hearing by Featherstone chief executive Martin Vickers and GMB Union official Geoff Burrow.
It heard that Blackmore, who claimed the post was an “in joke”, did not express any real regret nor did he apologise for it.
The RFL, which has a zero tolerance approach to discrimination, asked the tribunal to send a strong message to the rugby league community and the wider public that the misuse of social media and the racially offensive component of that misuse is wholly unacceptable.
The RFL says player has the right to appeal the decision and is taking advice from his representatives.
The suspension is effective from May 24.