Ian Roberts, the first openly gay rugby league player, has called out the NRL, New Zealand Warriors, and North Queensland Cowboys for their slow reaction time in the wake of a homophobic slur shouted during a game, on Friday night.

Roberts was disappointed that it took the club two days to respond to the slur and cited the Josh Cavallo incident in January as a positive example of what should have been done in this case. 

Warriors player Marcelo Montoya has been identified as the player that used a homophobic slur against Cowboys player Kyle Feldt. During Friday’s game, Montoya, who had floored Feldt in a tackle, could be heard in the broadcast audio saying “get up Kyle, you f****t”.

Montoya, who apologised for the slur, will plead guilty to the NRL judiciary. He will reportedly receive a two-game suspension with his guilty plea reducing that to one game.

‘There Needed to be a Quicker Response’

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Roberts said, “I’m obviously disappointed about the incident, it’s saddening, I understand things are said in the heat of the moment, but there needed to be a quicker response from the clubs and the NRL. 

“To leave it for two days … what was said was very audible over the telecast.

“I don’t care if someone calls me ‘f—-t’ but I’ve said it so many times, there are people out in the suburbs and regional areas who are really struggling with their sexual identity, and those comments have consequences.

“What the soccer did with Josh Cavallo at the start of the year, the crowd attacked Josh with homophobic slurs, but they came out the next day and said they would not tolerate such behaviour.

“By doing so they embraced the LGBTIQA+ community. That’s what disappointed me with the league. Had they made statements straight away, that to me is embracing inclusion.

“I work with the NRL, we do an inclusion program, and they’re great, but it’s times like this when things play out … sport has the power to bridge gaps in society.”

In January, Melbourne Victory fans had yelled homophobic abuse at Cavallo during a match.

Shortly after, Cavallo called out the abuse on social media and was greeted with support from celebrities, athletes, and members of the LGBTQI community and its allies. Melbourne Victory immediately condemned the abuse.

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