Spencer Leniu hit with lengthy NRL ban for racist slur against Ezra Mam in Las Vegas showdown

Ben Olawumi
Spencer Leniu, Ezra Mam

Sydney Roosters' Spencer Leniu (Main image) has been handed an eight-game ban following his racial slur against Brisbane Broncos' Ezra Mam (Circle) - Alamy

Sydney Roosters’ Spencer Leniu has received an eight-game ban for his racial slur against Brisbane Broncos’ Ezra Mam in their Las Vegas showdown, admitting he had uttered the words “f*ck up you monkey”.

The Roosters ran out 20-10 winners in Vegas at the Allegiant Stadium, but an event that brought a wealth of positivity to the Australian game ended up clouded by the allegation of racism, with Mam putting a formal complaint in via the match referee.

And just over a week on from the game, with the involved parties back Down Under, Leniu faced the NRL‘s judiciary panel on Monday in a 90-minute meeting which saw him confirm he had used the slur.

Speaking to the NRL’s panel of Sean Hampstead, Bob Lindner and Geoff Bellew, Leniu said: “At the time I thought it was one brown man saying something to another brown man.

“The use of words is so common. This game happened so fast and in that split second I said a word, I didn’t know any meaning to it.

“I didn’t know how much that meant to the Indigenous community and his family. It was just one of those things. I tackled someone, they said something to me and I said something to them.”

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Though not present at the meeting, Broncos ace Mam – who hails from a family of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent – wrote a statement which was read aloud, detailing how he felt after the slur had been said.

In response, Leniu said: “There is no room for racism in this game. I’m glad he brought this thing up. I had no racial intent towards Ezra and the Indigenous community.

“I love them and their culture. I don’t think there’d be a game without those people.”

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‘Most people who have been in Australia for 15 years would know it would ordinarily be racism to call someone a monkey’

As the meeting reached its conclusion, NRL judiciary chief Gyles told Leniu that “most people who have been in Australia for 15 years would know it would ordinarily be racism to call someone a monkey.”

He also added, “It is beyond argument that in Australia in 2024, calling an Indigenous person a monkey does constitute racial abuse, and racial abuse of a very serious nature.”

And though Leniu’s lawyer James McLeod pushed for a four-game ban, the judiciary panel felt that the slur – and the case – should bring a suspension of double that length.

Accordingly, Leniu – who only joined the Roosters in the off-season – will now sit out the next eight rounds of NRL action, starting with this Sunday’s game against Manly Sea Eagles.

The 23-year-old won’t feature until at least mid-May, with the final game of his ban coming when the Roosters meet the Broncos in Brisbane at the beginning of that month.

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