ABC’s Morrow stood down, now apologises

Staff Writer

David Morrow, the long-time voice of Rugby League on ABC Radio, has been stood down pending an investigation into alleged racist remarks made on the air on Monday night.

Morrow was reportedly telling a joke prior to the St George Illawarra and Manly match on Monday, and was unaware that he was on the air.

Morrow was teasing sideline commentator Shannon Byrne about electricity not being available in Darwin, Byrne's hometown.

Shortly afterwards, he allegedly parodies an indigenous accent saying on the air "Dat's da only way you can tell when there's anyone, er, awake is when dey smile.'  

The ABC have confirmed in a statement that Morrow will not be on the air until the issue is resolved, saying;

"David Morrow has been suspended from duties pending the resolution of an investigation into his recent on-air comments".

ABC Grandstand General Manager Craig Norenbergs has told Fairfax;

"It's disappointing, obviously from an ABC values, managerial and personal viewpoint I won't stand for racism in any way or form, particularly from someone who holds as much credence as our No. 1 league caller David does".

The NRL Chief Executive David Smith released a statement saying;

The comments are totally unacceptable and we've made that position clear to the ABC. Rugby league's commitment to indigenous programs, to the All Stars and our own reconciliation action plan couldn't be more at odds with such a remark. Ours is a game that welcomes people from every cultural background.''

In a statement this afternoon, Morrow has defended his comments saying:

"It's with a great deal of remorse and contrition that I am writing this apology.

I am very embarrassed and ashamed I have offended some people with my words on Monday night.

I am extremely distressed that my remarks which were accidentally heard on air have been reported and misinterpreted as racist against Indigenous Australians, and possibly offensive to Darwin citizens.

I know it is no excuse but I clearly didn't know we were on air. We were miked up in the broadcasting booth at Kogarah Oval and were not due to go on air until 7pm.

Unfortunately at 6.59pm the ABC station based in Wollongong crossed to the ground and without our knowledge started broadcasting what we were saying. We weren't told the broadcast would start at 1 minute to 7 instead of the normal 7 o'clock sharp.

During the minutes before we start calling a game I often engage in light-hearted banter with others in the booth and our sideline eye, who on this night was Shannon Byrne, who comes from Darwin.

While we were testing the microphones Shannon joked "lights are on but no-one's home". I joked back to her "is that what they say in Darwin?" and added, to give her a bit of a stir, "in fact they haven't even turned the lights on in Darwin yet have they?"

Here I was basically ribbing her that her home town doesn't have enough street lights. I was not intending this seriously. Shannon in the same light-hearted vein, replied "sometimes that doesn't even happen".

This put me in mind of a comment made to me in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1996 Olympics when a local Police officer who was part of our security warned us against the risk of walking through a nearby area which was pretty dark, because there weren't many working street lights. He had a deep southern accent and what he said was 'Dats da only way you can tell when there's anyone there, it's when dey smile". We all found this funny, including his deep southern accent.

The Atlanta policeman was obviously saying this because of his concerns for our safety if we ventured south of a certain street due to the bad lighting and high crime rate. His message was if you went there you wouldn't know you've got company until you see the smile and by then it'll be too late.

So when Shannon joked that sometimes the street lights don't go on in Darwin it quickly brought to mind what the Atlanta police officer had said.

I didn't tell Shannon the rest of the Atlanta story because we were about 20 seconds out from going to air at 7pm, when we always start Monday Night football broadcasts.

When chatting with work colleagues on radio while we're off the air I often draw on funny sayings I've heard during my 40 years in Radio and TV. What I accidentally said on air was only repeating a refrain from the 1996 Atlanta conversation, as part of swapping quips with Shannon on street lighting problems in some cities.

At no time did I set out to offend anyone. I have worked with and among a variety of people from many races and cultures and I have NEVER been accused of offensive behaviour.

I have been broadcasting for almost 42 years without a blemish.

I have great respect for the Indigenous aspect of this game and for grassroots football of all codes, I am so proud of all the NRL has accomplished with regard to the All Stars and admire the greats of this game.


David Morrow

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