Rossiter urges caution in crackdown on abuse
WITH the GAA in the process of formulating new sanctions for verbal abuse, Wexford hurler Keith Rossiter has warned against any knee-jerk reaction.
High-profile incidents of racial abuse have brought the issue into focus in recent months, and GAA president Liam O'Neill will bring a motion to Congress next year that is expected to dole out more severe punishments to offenders.
However, Rossiter believes the GAA must tread carefully. As it stands, the GAA can hand out bans ranging from eight weeks to expulsion from the Association for members found guilty of verbal abuse.
The Wexford full-back's mother hails from Egypt, and he has experienced racist slurs at various stages in his career.
"It's a very touchy subject," Rossiter said. "How do you establish what's a sending-off and what's not? It's going to be fairly crucial.
"I don't know how that's going to be established. If a lad gave me a slap of a hurl I could say anything to him. If you got a dirty slap you could say anything. Does that determine your man gets a red card for the slap and I get a red card for the abuse that I give him for hitting me?
"Where is it going to stop? It's going to be a big call for the GAA. It's going to be hard on referees as well to call it."
Rossiter experienced more abuse at underage level than he does now and recalls one incident at senior inter-county level that he took exception to.
"Look, I'm mixed race and I suppose when you're younger you get more of it," he said. "I leave what happens on the field on the field... well 99pc of the time anyway.
"A lot of things go on that you don't like at the time and you socialise with the guys afterwards, you have to get on with it. I've been called a couple of things over the years.
"I dealt with them myself. I won't go to management, I won't go to referees. You deal with it.
"There was one day I didn't shake your man's hand after a match; it's only happened the once and I'm sure it won't happen again.
"It's hard not to react. Sometimes you would just feel like losing it but probably that's what they're trying to achieve. You shouldn't be getting it. I go out on the field and I'm just there to hurl. You're not there to abuse the guy beside you."
With more and more ethnic groups getting involved in Gaelic games, Rossiter believes the issue will be less thorny in years to come, but he feels that in the interim an education programme needs to be put in place.
"Young lads in school these days, they're in school with Polish guys, Africans. They're all mixing together now and they don't see it as any different. Maybe in 10 or 15 years' time there won't be a racist issue because they're so used to each other.
"It's probably only a couple of us in inter-county and maybe that's why it's being highlighted more at the minute.
"You could put it back to Travellers playing hurling as well, they get a lot of stick. I've heard it myself. No one should have to put up with that on the field.
"It's up to the GAA to deal with that. But the next thing is it'll be, 'He called me this and he called me that', does that deserve a yellow or a red card? Where's it going to end?"