Zak Hardaker, 22, a fullback for the Leeds Rhinos in England's Rugby Football League, received a five-match ban after calling an opponent a "fucking fag" during a recent match. Hardaker has admitted using the slur and apologized.
The player is facing a grade E offense of "using verbal abuse based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual preference, national or ethnic origin." In Hardaker's apology he admitted using inappropriate language and said his comments were aimed at Warrington's captain, Michael Monaghan, rather than the referee, James Child, which appeared to be the case.
"I have complied fully with the RFL's investigation, never looked to deny what I said and will accept their judgment," Hardaker said in his statement.
The Rugby Football League takes this stuff seriously and has suspended players and fined clubs for racist and homophobic comments.
Here is Hardaker's statement:
"First and foremost, I would like to apologize for any offense my comments during that game have caused. In the heat of the game, I have used an offensive term and I can honestly say I was deeply saddened when I found out after the game how it had been perceived.
"As professional players, we know that we have an obligation to conduct ourselves in the right manner for the good of the game at all times, that includes with our teammates, opponents, officials and, of course, supporters at the ground and those watching at home on television, and my comments fell below those standards.
"I would especially like to apologize to Michael Monaghan, who my comments were aimed at.
"During the investigation, I was made aware that the referee on the night, James Child, also heard my comment and was offended by it. I would like to unreservedly apologize to him for that and I can assure him that no offense was intended toward him.
"I made a mistake and hopefully, if any good can come from this situation, it is that everyone thinks about the words they say and how they can cause unintended offense to those around us. Clearly certain words have powerful meanings other than that intended at the time."
I'm not sure what other meaning can be inferred from calling someone a "fucking fag," but the apology overall is a good one. Hardaker was thrown out of England's World Cup rugby camp last fall after a breach of discipline, so this is another strike against him. He'll have some time during the suspension to mull over his actions.