I recall a certain CEO I worked for calling me into his office some years ago. He had received a letter accusing me of being a two-timing scoundrel. It’s true. At the time I was. I was going through my ‘avant-garde raconteur man about town (i.e. obnoxious prick)’ phase.
“Jesus,” he said. “This takes me back to my younger days. But why would they send it to me? Why not send it to X (my live-in girlfriend at the time)?”
“They don’t know where I live,” I replied with overdone insouciance. He laughed, gave me the letter, and we had a gin (it was after five). It clearly wasn’t an employment issue.
Jason Eaton’s employers received a letter this week. Apparently the big bearded bloke got a wee bit toey after a barman refused to serve him. Eaton probably called the barman a (deleted for taste reasons) and a (deleted for legal reasons), and might have threatened to (deleted for hypothetical reasons). It happens. I’ve been known to get a bit shitty if I don’t get served, although Wellington bars seem more likely to serve me when I’m rolling drunk, and less likely to serve me when I’m sober. Maybe it’s that insouciance.
Anyhow, at the time the story broke, the Hurricanes’ management said it was an “employment issue”. Because we weren’t aware that Eaton had been in some kind of verbal stoush, I was left to ponder what it could be. An employment issue? Did he tell the coaches to get ****ed? A breach of team protocol, we then heard. Was he late to training? Did he miss a drug test? Did he take an axe to a teammate’s car? Was he caught drink-driving?
It turned out it was based on a letter some simpering little twit wrote to the NZ Rugby Union, complaining about a verbal spat. Bar staff have to take a lot of shit every night (usually after about 10pm). They will recognize some of their abusers (hello, TV journalists!), but do they write to their employers? Nope. They just spit in their drinks, or use the loo cloth to clean their glass.
I’d like to know who the worm was who wrote to Eaton’s bosses. He shouldn’t have got into the verbal battle, but to have the outcome be his dropping from the Hurricanes seems a bit over the top.
Hiding all the facts also doesn’t make the story go away. Like Tiger Woods’ carefully planned media statement on Saturday, the over-wrought Eaton saga left more questions than were answers to fill copy space.
I suppose Canes media boss Sam Rossiter-Stead did have other things on his mind, what with him kicking the Auckland Stars out of the National Basketball League on the same day, but this decision smacks of something missing.
In the past, NZRFU employees (i.e. footy players) have had to have allegations of rape, assault, or drink-driving to face being dropped from the XV. Even then it has usually had to wait until the charges have popped on to the judicial radar.
If Eaton just gave someone a verbal serve, and these team protocols have been in place for some time as we were told, then it’s going to be a busy season for Hurricanes management. What will happen if someone gets done for drink-driving, as winger David Smith was last year? Will they invoke sharia law and give them 40 lashes? Disorderly behaviour (Ma’a Nonu, 2004) might bring a contract being torn up.
It’s not cool if Eaton lost his cool. But it’s worse that his employers seem to have lost the plot.
UPDATE: Obviously not all teams have the same behaviour protocols: “A Super 14 rugby player who allegedly assaulted a man in a car park last year will have name suppression until his next court appearance. The 25-year-old player allegedly assaulted a man outside a pub in Mangawhai, north of Auckland, last August, the New Zealand Herald reported.”