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:
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…
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:
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.