Two days after banning captain Pablo Matera and two other players for racist social media posts, the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) has backflipped on its decision.
- Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino were suspended after old social media posts resurfaced
- None of the players were named to play against the Wallabies on Saturday night
- The UAR said the suspensions were lifted after the players apologised
Flanker Matera was stripped of the captaincy and, along with lock Guido Petti and hooker Santiago Socino, suspended on Tuesday for comments posted between 2011 and 2013 that disparaged black people and those from other South American nations.
Among Matera’s tweets were remarks about running over black people in his car and celebrating leaving South Africa because it was “full of blacks”.
“The Argentine Rugby Union strongly repudiates the discriminatory and xenophobic comments published by members of the Los Pumas team on social media,” an initial statement read.
Since then, according to the UAR, the players have apologised and, combined with their good behaviour in the years since the comments were posted, the governing body lifted the suspension.
“The preventive measures are unnecessary so we have resolved to lift the suspension of the three players and reinstate the captaincy to Pablo Matera,” a statement read.
Despite being reinstated, Matera, Petti and Socino were not named to face the Wallabies at Parramatta Stadium in the final match of the Tri-Nations on Saturday, with centre Jeronimo de la Fuente named captain.
Coach Mario Ledesma said the reinstatement had been made in agreement with UAR to shield the players after they were subjected to a “lot of hate” in the past few days.
“All I can say about these three fine players and great men is that they are great human beings,” he told a press conference in Sydney.
“They have been suffering a lot this week, their families have been suffering a lot this week, and it’s really sad to see. Obviously they acknowledge what they did and they are really regretful and ashamed of what they did, and we all are.”
‘He’s still the captain’
The UAR said the players had shown themselves to be “people with firm values and worth being part of our team”.
Reports in Argentina said the UAR’s reversal had been the result of protests by former and current players and clubs in the country.
The storm over the historic social media posts followed criticism of the team for not doing enough to mark the recent death of Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona before last week’s loss to New Zealand.
Matera later apologised for the omission and the discovery of the posts completed a fall from grace for the flanker, who was lauded around the world last month for leading the Pumas to their first Test win over the All Blacks.
Ledesma said the players had changed in the years since they made the social media posts, which the UAR described as “imprudent and immature”.
“I can say they are not the same people they were when they were 17, 18 years old,” Ledesma said.
“Pablo won’t be playing this game but he’s still the captain.”