Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Bay of Plenty councillor says Chiefs were tempted by naked body and booze

Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge feels sorry for the Chiefs players. Photo / File
Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge feels sorry for the Chiefs players. Photo / File

The Bay of Plenty politician who caused a public outcry with her controversial comments on the Chiefs boozy end-of-season celebrations involving a stripper has moved to clarify her stance, claiming her comments were "taken out of context".

Western Bay of Plenty District councillor Margaret Murray-Benge has come under fire after posting on Facebook she felt sorry for the Chiefs players that were reprimanded for their behaviour.

In the post, Murray-Benge said the stripper at the centre of the scandal should never have accepted an invitation to the Mad Monday event in the first place and that the rugby players deserved protection as well.

Her views have been widely condemned, with several commenters angry Murray-Benge appeared to be blaming the stripper involved, known as Scarlette, for the poor behaviour of the players.

In a second post, Murray-Benge said her comments had been taken out of context and she did not condone the players' actions, saying those involved "became no better than animals".

All of the team were last week censured by New Zealand Rugby after they allegedly hired a stripper then touched her without her consent yelling at her and throwing alcohol and gravel at her.

Speaking to the Herald this morning, Murray-Benge, mother to a son and two daughters, said: "I just think it's a really sad experience all around. One - that the boys were celebrating, there was probably too much drink and nobody looked at who they should have for their entertainment. Why they needed a stripper, I don't know.

"My second point is I'm a mum, I've got daughters and granddaughters - I would hate them to become strippers because they'd put themselves in the most vulnerable positions. That is something I find hard to accept.

"You can call me a bigot, call me what you like. But as a mum, that's just something I would hate to see my girls be doing.

She said rugby management needed to look after players and acknowledged that players needed to realise that they were role models in society.

"I don't want those players who are such fine athletes going out and teaching younger people that it's okay to get drunk at a social occasion.

"If you have self-control on a footy field, you can have self-control in everyday life. And too much alcohol just brings out bizarre behaviour. So I feel very sorry for those boys."
Murray-Benge encouraged Scarlette to find a new job.

"It might be easy money, but it comes at a cost - and I think she's worth more than that."

New Zealand Rugby cleared the players of the claims after an internal investigation, however, all players were given a formal warning that would sit on their records.

The internal inquiry concluded that although the performance was legal and consensual, it was wrong for professional rugby teams to engage in such events and said players had to take collective responsibility.

Murray-Benge said it was important for the team to move on and make sure there was not a repeat of the episode.

Asked for a suggestion as to what players could do to celebrate, instead, Murray-Benge said: "Go home, be with your family and have a barbeque."

- NZ Herald

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