Club terminates sponsor after racist remarks

2012-04-05 10:12

The high-profile Melbourne Australian Rules FC has ended a $2 million (about R16 million) sponsorship deal with a company whose chief executive posted racist and sexist remarks on a social networking site.

The Melbourne Demons yesterday said the comments posted on Facebook by EnergyWatch’s chief executive Ben Polis, first reported by Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, were “disgraceful and abhorrent” and that the club had terminated the sponsorship.

The Melbourne Rebels Super 15 rugby team followed suit several hours later, saying it would terminate its sponsorship because comments by Polis “were totally unacceptable and act in complete conflict to the standards and culture” of the team.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who also was the subject of Polis’ derogatory remarks along with those against an Aboriginal player, said the comments were “deeply offensive”.

“So to see someone associated with one of the great football clubs making comments like that is really deeply disappointing,” Gillard said.

Polis later resigned as chief executive of EnergyWatch, a company he founded.

“The reality is I have personally offended and embarrassed myself and my relationship with the Melbourne Football Club, and that’s something that I need to take on the chin for myself,” said Polis, who was also elected last year as president of the Australian Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association.

On the bobsleigh federation’s website, Polis is listed as the EnergyWatch Australian owner, entrepreneur, author and Winter Sport Fanatic.

Polis, whose company also sponsors the A-League’s Melbourne Victory FC, told the Herald Sun the remarks were meant to be private jokes.

“Not only does Melbourne Victory view Mr. Polis’ remarks as totally unacceptable, but the comments completely contradict everything Melbourne Victory stands for in terms of actively embracing multiculturalism, while also encouraging female participation,” the club said in a statement.

Last week, the Demons and most of their major club officials and players attended a state funeral for former player and chairperson Jim Stynes, who died of cancer on March 20.

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