Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Where were the players at the press conference?

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew and Chiefs boss Andrew Flexman fronted the press. Photo / SNPA
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew and Chiefs boss Andrew Flexman fronted the press. Photo / SNPA

There were notable and disturbing absentees at the New Zealand Rugby press conference detailing their general counsel's findings into the Chiefs strippergate scandal and NZR's subsequent action.

The Chiefs players were missing in any meaningful shape or form, apart from a reference to them accepting that it was wrong to hire a stripper for their end of season party.

They were not at the top table, and there was no powerful statement attributed to them.

That leaves a big hole in the credibility of what went on in Wellington, where New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew revealed that all Chiefs players - including 16 who weren't at the party - would receive a formal warning on their employment record.

If the Chiefs players are prepared to put on public record that none of them acted improperly towards the stripper Scarlette, then I for one would find it far easier to believe that the allegations were unfair.

So far, there hasn't been a squeak from the players.

A sport and franchise which says it is desperate to restore its standing in the community did not produce the very people who could make the best case. Surely men who have been so wronged would be desperate to say so.

At least some of us would like to have heard an unconditional denial from the players concerning the allegations of inappropriate behaviour. It was also important that the players make it clear that they would not condone what they were accused of, which included touching and licking Scarlette the stripper inappropriately and not paying her.

Here's another problem. If something untoward did happen, I doubt that all 24 players were complicit, yet all have received the warning, along with 16 who weren't even there.
That does not sound like justice, especially since hiring a stripper is not illegal. It sounds more like a closing of the ranks, the diluting of any responsibility and even the protecting of individuals in a team environment where some will have far more influence than others.

I don't believe the hiring of a stripper actually offended a lot of people. I could be wrong, but many of us have been at old style stag parties etc without seeing ourselves in a bad light. The Chiefs have not struck problems because they hired a stripper, although this put their franchise and NZR in a tricky image position and there are associated issues around the exploitation of women in society. It's what Scarlette alleges came next which is the big issue, and it will remain unresolved in many minds.

A team which had a tremendous reputation from a fairytale rise to prominence has a large black cloud hanging over it. Is this case closed? Maybe. But that cloud hasn't gone away.

- NZ Herald

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