IN the wake of the Josh Dugan drama, it must surely be time for the NRL and, indeed, all sports to take a careful look at the impact of media on its brand. No, I’m not referring to Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his controversial media laws (enough said about that!), but rather the impact of social media on our sport. The emergence of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook & Instagram has created a whole new paradigm for sports administrators to consider. I believe the NRL must be proactive in providing guidance on what can or cannot be posted on social media.
Let me state from the outset that I am in no way condoning the restriction of freedom of speech. We are all, thankfully, living in a society where every individual has a democratic right to freedom of speech. However, a line may have to be drawn where the actions of minority have a significant impact on the broader group. By way of example, if I own a business and one of my employees says something controversial (it may be racial for instance) which, in no way reflects the values of my business, then surely I have a right to take some sort of corrective action against my employee for tarnishing my brand?
It’s only a matter of time when a rugby league player will say or do something that completely devalues the NRL brand. The Josh Dugan saga has now spiraled out of control because he posted some inappropriate messages on Facebook. His consequence is the tearing of a potential $600K + contract with the Brisbane Broncos. My fear is that these young men, and we have to remind ourselves we’re talking about Gen Y kids playing the game of rugby league, don’t have a sense of what is right or wrong. In a way, the players need to be educated in much the same way as the NRL did for the mis-treatment of women a few years ago. They need to be protected from themselves AND prevented from doing something that may affect both themselves and the game in general.
Before we all jump on the bandwagon and start casting stones at Josh Dugan, why don’t we just calm down, take a step back and understand (a) this kid needs some help and guidance and (b) he has a right to a second chance. He will grow up and learn just like Jarryd Hayne did, just like Willie Mason did, just like Ben Barba is doing. They are more than just league players. They just need proper guidance and guidelines. Enter NRL, ARL Commission AND the player managers.