Australia’s most popular spectator sport was embroiled in a bizarre groping scandal Saturday that saw top AFL club Richmond apologise for “unacceptable behaviour”.
Footage on social media appeared to show a Richmond player grabbing the genitals of teammate Mabior Chol during a post-match song in their dressing room, while another was seen prodding the man’s anus.
They were all wearing their playing kit at the time.
Further video emerged of two more alleged incidents of inappropriate touching in changing rooms, leaving the massively popular Aussie Rules, similar to Ireland’s Gaelic football, red-faced.
Richmond Tigers coach Damien Hardwick was repeatedly questioned about his players’ behaviour during a press conference on Friday, denying any knowledge of it before abruptly leaving.
The team later issued a statement condemning it as “unacceptable and not in line with the club or community expectations”.
“The entire playing group have made clear this behaviour will cease. Richmond is committed to providing a safe workplace environment and will continue to work to ensure that is the case,” it added.
There was an apology in the same statement from the players involved — Nick Vlastuin and Jayden Short. Vlastuin said he was “deeply embarrassed” while Short admitted he had set “a poor example”.
But Chol said he was unfazed and took no offence.
“I have no issue whatsoever with those players, or any of my teammates,” he said.
Australian Football League bosses slammed the “juvenile” behaviour.
“AFL players are professional athletes and set the example for the hundreds of thousands of kids playing football across the country,” it said in a statement.
“It is the responsibility of each club and the players themselves to ensure this inappropriate behaviour is not repeated.”
Social media erupted in reaction, with some calling it “blatant sexual harassment” while others saw it as simply “locker room antics”.