Sorry, Not Sorry: NZRDA Issues Defensive Statement in Wake of Discrimination Complaint

Written by Kevin Dennison

So, if you haven’t heard already, there was quite the uproar yesterday on social media as it came to light that Marcia Taylor, aka Meat Train, of Richter City Roller Derby had recently filed a complaint against the coach of Team New Zealand Roller Derby, Stacey “Pieces of Hate” Roper, for discrimination against her based on her being hard of hearing. While Taylor was obviously bummed out that she didn’t make the cut, it was what happened afterward that really hit her hard.

Roper wrote on her Pieces of Hate official fan page (which has since been taken down):

“What I do not like is that everyone has to walk on eggshells around someone because they have a disability… These players have so much to take on. Expecting them to learn sign language in nine months on top of that is just not fair. I’m real sorry, but it’s called a disability for a reason.”

NOT cool. Obviously, Taylor was understandably upset and filed a complaint with the New Zealand Roller Derby Association (NZRDA). On October 22, 2014, after not hearing back from the NZRDA since she sent them a formal letter on October 15th, she posted her complaint submission on her skater Facebook page. The letter concludes with, what I feel is, a very reasonable request considering the severity of the situation:

“I would like to advise the NZRDA that I am currently taking legal advice on all of these matters.

I trust that the NZ Roller Derby Association – as the national body of our sport – will take these concerns into serious consideration and, pending a thorough, independent and external investigation will take the appropriate course of action. Furthermore, I believe that the NZ Roller Derby community deserves to know the outcome of any investigation and that it needs to be done in a transparent and ethical manner.

I would like to receive a response from you by the end of the day Thursday 23rd October 2014 regarding the NZRDA’s intended course of action.”

Meat Train #4711’s Facebook status, October 22, 2014.

Taylor also spoke with her local television station about her decision to file a complaint with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission as she felt that Roper’s actions and statements were in direct violation of the Human Rights Act, which clearly states that it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of disability.

When NZRDA released a statement along with their roster announcement back on October 16, it seemed as though the organization would be acting to support Taylor:

Condemnation

However, their investigation, ruling and chosen course of action did not come until yesterday, one day later than the October 23 date that Taylor had requested. This is where the NZRDA had a chance to truly stay in the spirit of this sport as for the skater, by the skater. This is where they had the opportunity to explicitly state that discrimination would not be tolerated by anyone, under any circumstance. Unfortunately, this happened instead:

“In light of the story broadcast on TV 3 last night featuring NZ Training Squad Member Marcia Taylor, NZRDA would like to publicly issue a statement surrounding this broadcast.

We apologise for any misunderstanding it may have caused and we appreciate the opportunity to clarify what happened.

We received a complaint from Miss Taylor in regards to the Head Coach of the New Zealand Roller Derby Team. We had notified Miss Taylor that a full investigation was to be undertaken by us. As a newly established association we have our own Code of Conduct which is stipulated in our Constitution. The investigation was time consuming and a 7 day deadline set by Miss Taylor was just not practical. We wanted to ensure that we gathered all the relevant information before reaching a decision. Upon our findings we actioned the conduct of Hate under our discretionary powers in accordance with our Code of Conduct. She was also very cooperative in our investigation and understood the seriousness of her conduct. She complied professionally with all of our demands and was told to make a public apology regarding her conduct. We followed suit and publicly issued an apology ensuring that she understood that her conduct was not acceptable.

In our findings Hate knew the final decision was going to be difficult due to the high calibre of skaters selected in the 30 training squad. It was made clear that 10 players would not make the final 20 and unfortunately Miss Taylor was unsuccessful. We have sympathy for all of the 10 players not selected to represent NZ in the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup. She selected the final 20 in a fair and logical manner based on their overall performance and stat results, and we support her decision. In concluding we found that standing down Hate at this pivotal stage would be detrimental to the final 20 squad. Hate was voted into this position from the New Zealand Roller Derby Community. Therefore she deserves respect in terms of her commitment and dedication to an unpaid NZ Head Coach position.

We do not support any type of discrimination and want to rectify any hurt that this has entailed. We have established a Mediation Committee to conduct a Mediation process. Once again, this was a time consuming process where we wanted to make sure the right persons were voted in to conduct this. We hope that the Mediation process will help us to rectify any future discrimination issues. We hope that we can resolve this with Miss Taylor and ensure that policies and procedures will be put in place.”

– New Zealand Roller Derby Association; Facebook Post

TL;DR “Sorry, not sorry.” NZRDA gave Roper a little tap on the wrist then went on to demand that everybody show her some respect. That’s right, NZRDA actually insists that despite Roper’s derogatory remarks and questionable actions, which they claim to NOT support, she was still voted into the position by the New Zealand Roller Derby and therefore “…deserves respect in terms of her commitment and dedication to an unpaid NZ Head Coach position.” Wait…

whhhhaaaaaat

I mean… come on… really?

Am I outraged? Absolutely. I’m not alone in that outrage either. Public reaction on the Team New Zealand Roller Derby and NZRDA Facebook pages have been overwhelmingly negative as well:

NZRDA Reaction 01

NZRDA Reaction 02

NZRDA Reaction 03

NZRDA Reaction 04

NZRDA Reaction 05

NZRDA Reaction 06

On the upside though, Taylor has made a positive out of a negative appearance. She has recently founded the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide page. It offers a number of player profiles, resources, support and more for deaf and hard of hearing skaters, officials, coaches, across the globe. Awesome!

As for the Human Rights Commission’s ruling, in time we’ll hear it all. Until then, I sincerely hope that NZRDA carefully reflects upon this entire situation and issues Marcia Taylor the apology that she deserves.

UPDATE 26/10/2014: The NZRDA has deleted it all. Everything. All of the comments made by members of the New Zealand roller derby community, their statement, all of it. So much for transparency, honesty and accountability.

UPDATE 27/10/2014: The NZRDA has put their statement up on their official site with the options to either “like” or “share” the post. No commenting allowed.

– Also, another blog post has revealed that Marcia Taylor is not the first to feel bullied by Ms. Roper. The post alleges that: “Back in early October, the Team Manager, “Danger Spouse”, quit, citing issues with bullying from the Team Coach and issues with the division of labour.”

– A user by the name of “New Zealand” has started a Change.org petition calling “for the immediate dismissal of Stacey Roper as the Head Coach of Team NZ Roller Derby.”

– As of 11:38 PM, CST, the petition has received 100 signatures.

UPDATE 28/10/2014: I have written a follow up post about ableism, the change.org petition and the general responsibilities that organizations such as the NZRDA have.

UPDATE 29/10/2014: Approximately 19 hours ago, Dunedin Derby officially announced their decision cut ties with the NZRDA.

Dunedin Out

 

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40 comments

  1. I was appalled by NZRDA’s conduct later on in the day. The comments “suddenly” went missing (it was actually over the course of around 10 minutes. Refreshes would reveal that comments were being deleted one by one) with the explanation of “people threatening the 20” (I didn’t see any such comment and the comment regarding why comments ‘suddenly’ disappeared also mysteriously disappeared). The entire statement was finally pulled at around 11pm.

    The statement was almost comical in its execution. Referring to Stacey Roper as “Hate” so that there was a statement in there saying:

    “Hate was voted into this position from the New Zealand Roller Derby Community.”

    i.e. It’s the NZ Roller Derby’s fault for having voted for hate. Hate is what you got.

    Can you imagine that on the evening news?!?

    And the “As a newly established organisation we have our own code of conduct…”. What were they trying to say?!?! That they’re proud of their shiny new code of conduct that is unable to deal with the situation?

    But the worst of the worst was:
    “In concluding we found that standing down Hate at this pivotal stage would be detrimental to the final 20 squad.”

    Their investigation wasn’t around whether Stacey Roper was pivotal to the team. It was to investigate the claims of bullying and discrimination. If that was their conclusion, you’ve got to wonder:
    A) What were they really investigating?
    B) Was this an explanation to their findings rather than a conclusion?
    C) Did they take into account the similar claims made by Danger Spouse earlier in the month? Which also weren’t acted upon, and who quit as team manager citing “…Pieces of Hate’s hostility, abuse and unprofessionalism toward me” as her primary reason for leaving. She also suggested the following:

    “I recommend that a strong mediation/supervisory group be established to handle future issues of this type. That group must be empowered and prepared to take action as needed, up to and including removing personnel. It’s a very bitter irony that my own failings have energized the board to that very point in my own case.”

    1. I cannot believe they deleted the comments made by members of the New Zealand roller derby community and deleted their official statement. A real, transparent, respectable, HONEST organization would have kept it all there, plain to see, and held themselves accountable for it all. How very disappointing.

      Well, they may have removed every trace of it from their Facebook page but hundreds upon hundreds of people still read it all and here it is to stay immortalized.

      I completely agree with all of your questions and concerns. The NZRDA has conducted itself in a very shady manner and gave very little real answers. Such a shame…

      1. Just to be clear, I don’t wish them any ill-will. I just wish they’d:
        A) Realise the gravity of the situation.
        B) Stop doubling down on their mistakes. i.e. if you’re going to do a press release, realise that they’ve now got an audience. It should be done with all seriousness rather than the unstructured tripe they issued expecting it somehow make things better? There were really early indications that the press statement was completely off.
        C) Stop making excuses for each other. Yes, they’re all volunteers elected from the NZ Derby community. But, if they’re unable to do the tasks they’re elected to do, they shouldn’t be standing for the position. It’s not a position of power. It’s a position of servitude. The NZ derby community can do better and deserves better.
        D) Admit to their own mistakes in handling things. This should have been dealt to in the first instance. Not when suddenly they’re suddenly caught with their flies down on the news.
        E) Show some integrity. Their handling of things thus far, now that they’re caught in the spotlight, has been idiotic and dishonest.

  2. I made a post responding to their statement shortly before the whole thing was deleted. I find it very frustrating that they are shutting down any opposition or discussion. They are, after-all, a representative body of the derby community NOT an independent entity. It seems the NZRDA executive has basically gone tyrant- it has disengaged itself from the community and seems to have a siege mentality towards the derby community.

    I really feel for those calibre skaters who most people expected to be on the team who have been excluded for some undisclosed reason. Unfortunately Marcia is not the only skater who has been shafted.

    For what its worth my post is copied below (make me feel better if its at least somewhere…):

    “She was also very cooperative in our investigation and understood the seriousness of her conduct.” However she didn’t consider it serious enough to volunteer an apology as she had to be “told” to do it. What does a coerced apology mean?

    “She selected the final 20 in a fair and logical manner based on their overall performance and stat results, and we support her decision.”

    This statement is surprising. It is evident that the selection process excluded at least one player due to discrimination, and in this statement NZRDA is supporting that approach. Yet NZRDA states it does “not support any type of discrimination” and required an apology from the selector for doing so; does NZRDA support the selection process or not?

    In light of the selectors blatant disregard for basic fairness the obvious question is: what other areas of the selection process are unacceptable? As the process was not transparent this question is significant, especially in the context of the controversial team selection.

    Statistical results of various tests transpose directly to player ranking within a squad. Thus, the top ranking members of a squad are immediately identifiable under those metrics.
    The metric “overall performance” apparently covered soft metrics such as game play/ability, skating skills, experience, and teamship. A player who ranked highly in the statistical results would have to rank very low in “overall performance” to miss out on selection.

    There are players of a high calibre who would rank highly in both of those metrics, yet they have been excluded from the team. This implies there is another aspect of the selection process that has not been acknowledged. Why were they deliberately excluded? Is this another part of the selection process that is unacceptable?

    The integrity of the selection process has been seriously compromised by the admission of discrimination. Any further question of insupportable decision-making must result in a comprehensive review of team selection process, or an explanation as to why NZRDA will not fully explain its selection process. There is clearly a lot of hurt and grief within the derby community over this team selection, a frank and honest appraisal would be helpful.

    1. Where you only have the option to “like” or “share”. There is no question that New Zealand’s roller derby community is being actively silenced on NZRDA’s channels. Comments deleted, info vanishing for their social media and now a statement that nobody can remark on. Not very honest practices going on here…

      1. I have friends who are PR/social media experts and they’ve shared so, so many social media screw-ups just like this. I’m actually surprised that they posted it on their news page instead of just deleting it and starting over.

  3. So when they say she was elected… there were two candidates. People thought she was a better option than the other person. It’s worth mentioning that everyone knows who Hate is since she coached (and made a mess of) Team NZ last time around, so she may have gotten a default vote from anyone who didn’t hear just how badly things went before.

    1. The fact that she was elected is completely irrelevant. It doesn’t absolve the NZRDA from the legal mess they now find themselves in. Putting that in just feels like they’re…. panicking.

      Did they turn a blind eye to bullying behaviour?
      Given the letter to Team NZ which got CC’ed into the RollerGirls and Refs Forum on Facebook from Danger Spouse, it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to come up with an answer.

      And have they knowingly and willingly turned a blind eye to discrimination?
      Unfortunately this statement leaves absolutely no doubt. Despite the obligatory “We do not support any type of discrimination”, they have stated their bias, “… standing down Hate at this pivotal stage would be detrimental…”, wilfully ignored the evidence they have in front of them by not acknowledging the post made by Stacey Roper and stated “…selected the final 20 in a fair and logical manner…” knowing full well what some of that “logic” was.

      They do realise that it’s the human rights commission they’re dealing with now right? It’s not a couple of derby girls (which is scary enough). It’s a great big giant law that they’ve breached. They have national attention. And they have a member base who are completely dissatisfied with them. And their response is to go tyrant…

      1. INTERNATIONAL attention, now! You are commenting on a blog owned and operated by a Canadian, after all :). All of North America and the UK are reading and talking about this story. Based upon the shares I am seeing and the visitors statistics in my admin panel I can honestly tell you that this is being talked around the roller derby community on, literally, every continent now. NZRDA has the numerous league and organizations from across the world looking at them.

    2. One of the factors working in Hate’s favour for that vote is that the other candidate wanted to be in the team as well as coach it, and many leagues did not think that was a good idea.

      1. Yeah, can’t blame em’ there. It’s usually not a good idea for your coach to be an active skater as well. Not only would their focus be extremely divided, not really fulfilling either role fully, but they’d burn out too. That would have been a ton of pressure for one person at the international level of competition. Not to mention, what happens if they get a bad injury? There goes a skater AND the coach in an instant. Lol.

        Hopefully all of this encourages others to stand up to the challenge next time around for a better pool of candidates.

    3. It is true she was voted in, but by what system?
      Is it fair that a league with a handful of skaters gets the same voting power as the bigger leagues? why is the voting not along the lines of one skater = one vote? It seems that the bigger leagues (with the majority of skaters) actually did not vote for her, but the smaller regional leagues did. I understand Hate has put a lot of time into the smaller start-ups etc (and really important work) and so it’s understandable they would then vote for her to be coach. Those smaller league do not know her history in the same way as the bigger / older leagues. Also, not that it matters, but I thought there was three candidates?

  4. NZRDA Double Down:

    While questions are being asked about the censorship issues i.e. why are “members” of the NZRDA not allowed to comment on statements made under their name, it seems the NZRDA has withdrawn to completely official methods citing:

    “The NZRDA is not one person , It is a group of leagues consisting of RCRD PCR DED DD MMDC NN TRC RCR SCRR BCR etc etc You are represented and your view is represented through your league rep . Your league in its entirety can take whatever you want to NZRDA and put it up for vote and action it .”

    The NZRDA, due to not being “one person”, but having a management committee as well as an admin committee, can, it seems, release a statement, which apparently contains another lie.

    “So this investigation is still in process … hence why nothing can be released.”

    Nothing?!?!? A horrible horrible statement was released describing what they found “in concluding” and “in our findings” which doesn’t talk about an ongoing investigation at all. That certainly sounds like they’ve got findings and have made conclusions…. But the investigation is ongoing so we can be sure of a high standard of fairness and impartiality with all the professionalism and grace that we can expect from this organisation.

    I’m told, again, that there’s lots being discussed behind closed doors and that the process is ongoing. However, I fear that the committees are banking entirely on a mediation process. If that fails, I fear the NZRDA can no longer exists as it seems, by their own statements and actions, to willfully flaunt laws around discrimination and bullying.

    Will the dumbarsery ever stop?

    1. I definitely believe it will. This post has already received a total of 4,475 views in the past 48-hours from people in New Zealand, the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, France, Norway, Spain, Japan, Netherlands, Finland, South Africa and India, to name a few. Someone who has seen it, or will soon see it, is bound to help it spread outside the derby networks.

  5. Hate has been a long time bully on the NZ scene, esp in the early days, she has ruined many girls derby experience.
    the league she founded kicked her out for several incidents unsportwoman like conduct their is a documentary called “Pretty Brutal” that unintentionally highlights her awful attitude.
    I, for one, hope she gets everything she deserves.

  6. Interesting to see among the comments on the petition is the mention of the possibility of a boycott of the team if the coach is not dismissed and this is not handled appropriately.

    1. Hmmm. It’s a complicated situation. On one hand, nobody wants to support a coach whose behaviors have been discriminatory and disparaging toward others. On the other hand, punishing all of those hard working skaters, who are just giving their hearts and souls to preparing, isn’t really cool.

      Hopefully, NZRDA will step Pieces of Hate down. However, if they don’t, I hope people will still respect and support the skaters in their efforts.

  7. At some point Stacey must realise that the best course of action is for her to voluntarily step down. NZRDA are too disorganised and afraid of reprisal to actually do anything meaningful in the time before the WC. If Stacey really wants what is best for NZ roller derby and Team NZ, she should realise that continuing to remain in her position is only going to bring negativity to both. I feel extremely sorry for the 20 skaters who are now going to be tarred with her hateful words at the WC.

    From what I have heard, a significant proportion of the management team chose not to get involved in Team NZ matters prior to this, and now they are desperately trying to bury their heads in the sand until it’s all over. People shouldn’t put their hand up to act on a national governing body if they are afraid to engage in confrontation and take action in response to serious allegations. End of story.

    I’m so happy that Marcia is gaining a lot of support in this, but I feel extremely disappointed that this level of support was not also shown for Danger Spouse. I hope that any investigation will also now include the allegations made by Danger Spouse about her own experiences of abuse and bullying.

    1. not to mention the other skaters who have been royally shafted by Pieces of Hate as well. The point you make about DS not getting the support is tied to the wider systemic issue that is pretty much ignored so far – The only reason this is a story is the word “discrimination”, which is related to Meat train and her selection.

      So many people are up in arms about that (rightly so), but what is ignored in this discussion is the widespread environment of bullying and intimidation that has characterised Pieces of Hates tenure as coach. Other people such as DS have paid the price of dealing with Pieces of Hate with little to no support or vindication. The point is that Pieces of Hate’s act of discrimination is not an isolated slip of the tongue, but rather a routine and characteristic behaviour towards other people. Hopefully Meat Train may see some justice out of this, but what of the others (there are more)?

      1. You’re completely right. I was astounded when Stacey was voted in as coach again, given events that transpired around Team NZ last time around. I could only assume that those who voted for her had not had the opportunity to hear about her conduct at the previous World Cup – I guess none of the younger leagues had anyone who skated in Team NZ, and therefore would not have heard. People have known that Stacey bullies and intimidates for a very long time, and her lack of impartiality was on full display in the last Team NZ selection, so I’m glad that it’s finally being brought out into the open.

  8. I am Danger Spouse, (former) Manager of TeamNZ. In August , I walked away from the team heartbroken. Thanks so much to all of you for the support you’ve been giving Marcia Taylor Meat Train, and I’m thrilled to see the tribe of derby wrapping her up in their arms.
    Thank you.

    1. Hello Sarah,

      Thank you for reading and for the kind words!

      I had actually just read your announcement post on leaving Team NZ about an hour ago as it had been shared with me. I am extremely sorry to hear about your experiences of such an abusive environment having poured so much time and energy into something you were clearly passionate about.

      Though the specifics are certainly different, I know that feeling of heartbreak as well and I actually allowed it to fester and poison me for the better part of a year following my own experiences with and observations of abuse with an old league.

      You will rise above, though. From what I have heard of your efforts and character from many others you are an immensely respected and appreciated member of the NZ roller derby community. So, keep up the good work and keep speaking out!

      Kevlar

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