‘If you have done the crime you have got to spend the time’ – Sheffield Eagles boss gives verdict after Featherstone Rovers’ Ben Blackmore suspended for racist abuse
When talking about his decision to return for a fourth spell in South Yorkshire, Sheffield Eagles winger Rob Worrincy praised the family feel of the club.
That sense of togetherness was reinforced just before kick-off against Whitehaven on Sunday when the 35-year-old joined some of his team mates in taking a knee to chants of ‘Super Rob Worrincy’.
The gesture has been criticised and retired by some in sport for losing it’s impact, in their view, but this moment felt powerful to many of those watching on.
Whereas some fans have booed, Sheffield fans roundly applauded their players’ action and made their support heard following the news earlier this week that former player Ben Blackmore has been banned for 10 weeks after being found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute by posting a racist comment about Worrincy on social media.
Worrincy said Blackmore’s words “not only had an effect on me and my mental health but also affected my friends, family and the club I currently represent”.
He told a Rugby Football League (RFL) hearing into the incident: “It made me feel a combination of emotions from anger, upset, let down and most of all disappointed by what had been posted.”
The Leeds-based police officer claimed his disappointment was heightened given the RFL’s education and publicity drive around discrimination and the use of social media.
Prior to his post, Blackmore, now playing full time for Featherstone, had not completed the governing body's education modules on equality & diversity and social media, which were sent out to clubs and players before the current season.
"If you have done the crime you have got to spend the time,” Sheffield Eagles head coach Mark Aston said of the 28-year-old’s suspension.
"They [the players] are taking the knee for 13 seconds before every game, that’s enough said to me.”
Blackmore, who played for Sheffield between 2016 and 2019, claimed his comment about Worrincy being a “locked player” in the 2021 squad photo was a reference to an ‘in joke’ between himself and other named individuals about the No 6 shirt, but these people did not corroborate what he said when interviewed by the RFL.
The hearing concluded: “[Blackmore] did not express any real regret for posting his comment.
"He did not apologise for his actions but rather sought to hide behind a rather pathetic defence of his obviously racially inappropriate comment being no more than an in joke about an unrelated subject.”
Worrincy thanked Sheffield Eagles and his current team-mates for their support, as well as his friends and family, and called for work to continue to rid both sport and society of discrimination.
Despite being unhappy with most of his side’s showing in a 25-25 draw against Whitehaven, Aston did reserve praise for the experienced winger – and said he was coping well after the incident.
He added: "Rob’s good. In fact, I thought he was good today.
"I thought he looked dangerous, I thought he had something about him but he’s been good.”
Blackmore, who has effectively been suspended for the rest of the 2021 season, is currently considering whether to appeal the decision, the RFL said on Friday.
The Star has approached Featherstone Rovers for comment.