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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Heading into the team's season opener against the Parramatta Eels, the Penrith Panthers might have had other things on their collective minds. For the better part of two weeks, the team has been dealing with a scandal that involved sex, lies and video tapes. On the pitch, too many errors resulted in a 20-12 loss with the Eels scoring late to secure the victory.
The club was doing its preparation for the new season when news broke that a sex video involving Panthers players had emerged on social media. The release of the new tape followed on the heels of two other sex tapes being released on social the day before. According to sources, the videos all depict Panthers' players taking part in explicit sex acts. While the making or appearing in such videos is not a criminal offense, it does create some significant integrity issue for National Rugby League (NRL), the teams, its owner and the rest of the players. It also effects punters who are using a bet365 bonus code or any other bonus to make wagers on NRL games.
One player, whose name was not released to the press, was reportedly shown in the weekend footage as a participant. In response, the club issued a statement to "unreservedly apologize to the club's members, fans and sponsors for the hurt and embarrassment caused by the videos and subsequent media coverage".
The league also admitted it was "aware of a video allegedly involving Panthers players being circulated on social media".
Just days prior to the discovery of the first tape, the NRL's bosses introduced tough new rules to address the current onslaught of damaging off-field incidents that were drawing unwanted scrutiny from the press and fans.
All of this follows an earlier incident involving Canterbury Bulldogs star Dylan Napa, who has been fined 10 percent of his 2019 salary for appearing in several sex tapes. NRL chief Todd Greenberg chose not to suspend him despite Napa's "gross stupidity" because the tapes had been recorded years ago and were released without Napa's knowledge.
After the Napa incident and going forward, Greenberg warned that anyone else appearing in these kinds of videos would face much harsher penalties. He was quoted as saying:
"I would suggest that every NRL player would be acutely aware now that if they distribute or take video which are idiotic, senseless and juvenile and distribute them around and it gets out, they can expect a significant sanction."
Based on the new guidelines set forth by the NRL leadership, it will be interesting to see what penalties are given if Penrith players were indeed involved in the aforementioned tapes. An investigation is ongoing, and Penrith management has pledged complete cooperation.
As part of the league's new integrity guidelines, any player facing serious criminal charges will be immediately suspended, pending the investigation. In previous cases, players were permitted to practice and play until such time they were convicted.
Two players are currently suspended under this new regulation: St. George Illawarra's Jack de Belin for sexual assault allegations and Manly Sea Eagles' Dylan Walker, who has been accused of domestic violence.