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Grassroots club suspends player for racially abusing Cooper Vuna

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Chris Lishman/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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An English grassroots club has suspended a player after he racially abused Cooper Vuna, the ex-Wallabies and Tongan international, on social media. It was in the early hours of Saturday when the 2019 World Cup player, who spent his two most recent seasons in England playing for Newcastle, publicly tweeted his reply after he had been on the receiving end of abuse. 

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A social media message sent to the 34-year-old Vuna read: “You are a disgusting human being. Rot in hell you foreign c***.” His reply was: “I don’t want sympathy from anyone but if this was sent to someone more vulnerable – who knows what could’ve happened. It needs to STOP, not only in Rugby but in all sports.”

The background of Vuna’s abuser was traced to Westoe, an English grassroots club that currently plays in Durham/Northumberland 1. Their response read: “This morning the club has been made aware of an incident which occurred yesterday evening. 

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“South Shields & Westoe RFC do not condone any form of racism or exclusion, and the club fully supports the RFU policies in place. The individual’s views are not a reflection of ours as a rugby club. 

“The club has spoken to the individual involved, who has apologised for the incident which he realises was inexcusable. The club has suspended the individual with immediate effect. We as a club would like to apologise to the player involved.”

Civica, the employer of Vuna’s abuser, also tweeted its reply. “As a company, we do not tolerate discrimination or harassment. We are immediately investigating this incident.” Vuna’s calling out the racial abuse drew a wide response online, including numerous fellow rugby players such as Telusa Veainu, Mike Brown, Ugo Monye and Simon Zebo.

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Having initially played NRL for Newcastle Knights, Vuna switched to Super Rugby at the Melbourne Rebels in 2011 and was capped the year after by the Wallabies. He then played in the Japanese Top League before arriving in England to play for Worcester, Bath and Newcastle while also representing Tonga at the World Cup in Japan. 

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