Thursday 21 February 2019

'It's unacceptable' - Luke Fitzgerald reacts to alleged racist abuse directed at Simon Zebo

12 January 2019; Simon Zebo of Racing 92 is tackled by Louis Ludik of Ulster during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 5 match between Ulster and Racing 92 at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Co. Antrim. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
12 January 2019; Simon Zebo of Racing 92 is tackled by Louis Ludik of Ulster during the Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 5 match between Ulster and Racing 92 at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Co. Antrim. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Luke Fitzgerald has called for lifetime bans for any supporters found to have directed racist abuse at Simon Zebo.

The ex-Munster star returned to Ireland last weekend with Racing 92, scoring a try in a 23-22 defeat to Ulster at Kingspan Stadium. However, the thrlling Champions Cup encounter was overshadowed by the allegations made by Zebo that he was racially abused by Ulster fans during the contest.

Writing on social media after the game, Zebo said:

"Also I hope my ears deceived me with some comments directed my way from the crowd #NotOn. Django wins in the end."

Racing 92 also released a statement condemning the 'racist insults' directed at Zebo.

"Racing 92 strongly condemns the racist insults that Simon Zebo was targeted with on Saturday during the European Cup game between this club and Ulster Rugby at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast," the statement said.

"Racism has no place in rugby, in which the values of solidarity and togetherness are the exact opposite of any forms of discrimination.

"Racing, however, does not wish to stigmatise Ulster Rugby as a whole. The insults suffered by Simon Zebo are the actions of only one or two individuals and have been condemned by many Ulster fans who have shown their support for Simon."

Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Fitzgerald called the alleged abuse 'unacceptable' and advocated for heavy punishments for the perpetrators.

"It is a very serious accusation and all the parties have taken it very seriously," Fitzgerald said.

"Ulster were quick to condemn it and to try and figure out who it was. Our sport is not about that, I'm not saying any sport is, but our sport is not about that. The rugby community has come out supporting him and that is very imporant. Nobody should be made to feel that way. It is important that the person who is alleged to have said something is reprimanded very strongly. Those kind of people do not belong at rugby games or any sporting event. It is unacceptable and it doesn't belong anywhere in the game."

Fitzgerald added that he doesn't think that Ulster's fan base should be held responsbile for a 'few bad apples'.

"There are going to be different personalities at a game, every single stadium will have a few bad apples," he added.

"We hope Ulster deal with this allegation and try to find out who did the wrongdoing and ban them forever from going to games, but they have been very strong on it so fair play to Ulster rugby. They are going through a big rebuilding period and it is important that we support them."

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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