Wayne Bennett Makes Really Stupid James Roberts Comment About Mardi Gras

04/03/2016 11:10 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: Broncos coach Wayne Bennett speaks to media after losing the round one NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on March 5, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Nobody does stupid better than rugby league. If stupid was money, the NRL salary cap would be 365 trillion dollars and every stadium would be made of platinum.

One game. That's how long it took for the first major outbreak of stupid for the year. After the very first game of the 2016 NRL season, a ho-hum affair in which the Brisbane Broncos beat the Parramatta Eels 17-4, Broncos speedster James Roberts released a trickle of stupid which soon turned into a flood.

Here's what happened. In his post-match interview with Channel Nine's Yvonne Sampson, Roberts answered a question about his pace thus:

"I've got more speed than Oxford Street."

Roberts' reference to a popular amphetamine freely available in a certain Sydney precinct was not particularly funny, but not particularly offensive either. It was clearly unnecessary, though. File it under mildly stupid.

What came next, however, could be categorised as both off-colour and almost unimaginably stupid. In the press conference after the game, much-loved Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was asked about Roberts. With his trademark lopsided smirk, he said:

"Well as long as he's not on the NRL's... the mardi gras, on the float... the rest I can handle, his speed."

Now on any ordinary day of the week, this would be stupid. Because anyone who makes jokes about gay people or the Mardi Gras in this day and age is clearly just plain stupid.

When you're a senior figure in a major sporting code, and when your attitudes and opinions influence millions, such comments are a bazillion times more stupid.

Wayne James Bennett AM OAM has always oozed decency and humility. Those who've worked alongside him swear he has not a homophobic bone in his body. But that only makes his comments a whole 'nother level of monumentally bone-headedly STUPID.

Why leave you and your code open to accusations of homphobia when as far as we know, or thought we knew, these are not your views?

The answer, which we've already given you, is that nobody does stupid better than rugby league. Rugby league does stupid in its sleep. A week after the season launched with Commissioner John Grant telling the world "we've changed", evidence points otherwise. Still as stupid as ever.

But there's a deeper level of stupid here. This will -- excuse the pun -- stupify you. Here goes.

If you hadn't heard, the NRL is having a float at this weekend's Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. That's what Wayne Bennet was referrring to. The float will have various old players on board and a Tina Turner drag queen, in a glorious reference to old NRL ads like these.

Like the man in the suit said at the season launch, the NRL is changing. It is, on paper at least, a non-discriminatory league which celebrates indigenous players, the contribution of women to the game, and its wonderfully homogeneous past and present.

Then along comes the game's most venerated figure -- bar none -- and tips a bucket of stupid all over the whole thing. It's just so... so... so unimaginably stupid.

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