Hard News by Russell Brown

206

Not good enough, Eden Park

I've been to Eden Park eight times this year, the past five to watch rugby, and I can honestly say that abusive behaviour -- let alone the kind of harassment reported in this story in the Herald today -- is not typical.

Eden Park crowds are a generally agreeable lot. There are plenty of women and children at games. There may well be forthright advice to the referee (I am often willing to offer such help myself), noisy expressions of schadenfreude and loud encouragement of the home team. Being loud is one of the fun things about being the home crowd, especially when there's a full house.

But incessant homphobic abuse like that 24 year-old Hannah Spyksma had yelled over her head? No. It is not, as the morons responsible believed, "part of the game".

Which makes Eden Park's official response all the more dreadful:

Eden Park spokeswoman Tracy Morgan said harassment of a patron would not be condoned and the men could have been evicted for that.

But unless everyone else around Ms Spyksma was offended by the men's slurs, they would likely not have been kicked out. Ms Morgan said it wasn't Eden Park's place to "be the PC police".

"If she's saying that she was isolated and that it shouldn't be acceptable, it's not our job - I don't believe - to try to move the cultural morals of society."

Morgan should have stopped at the first paragraph. By her own account, and that of her her family members, Hannah was subject to unacceptable behaviour. Tapping on the head or whatever, no one is allowed to physically (or verbally) harass anyone else in a crowd. It may be difficult to police, but the principle is not at all difficult. It is very, very simple.

Hannah was targeted because she called the morons on their language, which was a courageous thing to do. Would I have done that? I don't know. Crowds are tricky places for confrontation, because you literally can't do what you'd do somewhere else -- move away. Maybe I'd just have sat there gritting my teeth and hating them. But I like to think I'd have something to say when these boofheads turned their attention to Hannah.

And Eden Park management should have something to say, too. The defensive "not our job" "PC police" response their spokesperson gave the Herald is an insult to Hannah and to anyone else who pays money to come to the park. It tarnishes the image of the place itself. A mature adult needs to step in here on the park's behalf and do and say the right thing. Immediately.

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