Simon Zebo has described World Rugby’s response to the recent racism controversy surrounding three Argentina players as ‘pathetic’. Speaking on the RugbyPass Offload podcast, Zebo said he felt let down by the actions of the sport’s governing body after racist social media posts made a number of years ago by Argentina’s Pablo Matera, Guido Petto and Santiago Socino recently resurfaced.
All three players were suspended by the UAR, with Matera also stripped of the captaincy, only for the UAR to reverse the decision and reinstate the players just two days later. Matera had posted an apology for his comments before deleting his social media accounts.
Asked about his thoughts on the controversy on the latest episode of the RugbyPass Offload, Zebo says he was shocked when he saw the social media posts, adding that he would ‘never’ play in the same team as Matera.
“It’s not as if those Tweets are 20 or 30 years ago, you know? They’re only 7-8 years ago, so it’s pretty disgusting,” Zebo said.
“You know, people say ‘Oh he can change’ or whatever, but I think if you’re saying things of that severity, I think you just probably get better at hiding it. Hiding your racism, I think that’s very prominent in this day and age. A lot of people are just closet racists.
“I’d never expect to have seen something like that. I’d never, ever, play in a team with him in the changing room, or someone who has done something like that in the past.
“It wasn’t exactly a slip of the tongue or something, that’s literally one of the worst things you can say or one of the worst mentalities you can have.
“And I’ve spoken to people who know him and they say he’s had a tough childhood and he’s been through a lot, so you can understand, but sorry, you can’t understand anything (about those posts). I just understand the point of view that he might have changed and rugby might have helped him grow, but I still think he’s just better at hiding it like a lot of other racists.
“But the more disappointing thing would be World Rugby, for sure, that it took them (almost) two weeks to say something. They said they were investigating or trying to find out (what had happened), but the Tweets are there, black and white. You look at them, you read them. Surely they’ve had dialogue with the UAR before this, so I just think it’s very disappointing.”
World Rugby initially stayed quiet on the matter before issuing a statement earlier this week, where the governing body said they welcome an investigation into the matter.
However Zebo feels their response has been hugely unsatisfactory, pointing out that the statement arrived a few days after former England international Ugo Monye heavily criticised World Rugby on BT Sport.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 9, 2020
“I knew something would be said (by World Rugby) as soon as Ugo said that on BT Sport, I knew something would be said straight away,” Zebo added. “It was just pathetic. I am very disappointed.
“He’s (Monye) the first person that came out and said that he was disappointed in World Rugby, and properly had a go at them. Everything up until then had been just specifically about Matera and the comments, pretty much. World Rugby hadn’t been highlighted like they were by Ugo, brilliantly. And literally it was the next day or two days later that they released an official statement.
“I just think it’s very, very poor form.”
The Racing 92 full-back believes the way the issue has been handled suggests World Rugby are not serious on combating racism.
'The person he is now probably doesn’t reflect what he wrote on those days, (but) it’s not an excuse'https://t.co/kHps0yv40o
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 8, 2020
“It just shows you that it’s just ticking a box (dealing with racism). They’re just keeping up with the trend. It’s not at the forefront of their mind, it’s not something that they’re trying their hardest to eradicate, clearly, if it’s taken them over two weeks to say something. But that’s something in general (they have said in the statement), it’s not even something specific. They’ve had weeks to come up with change that they could enforce or punishment that they could enforce, or something. But no, two weeks, and they just say b******* basically, that ‘Oh yeah, we’re looking at the situation.’ Get out of here, like, it’s pathetic.
“You know, what a moment for World Rugby to stamp a mark on the subject of racism and to be involved, put the arm around the shoulders of those people and players who are representing the sport, but they didn’t. They failed massively and it’s very disappointing.
“Like, the tweets were just… How can you write something like that? To even think about something like that and then put it into words? It’s one of the worst things you can do in terms of racism.
“But yeah, I’m just completely let down by the whole situation as a brown person playing the sport.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now