Like with any other good controversy it was only a matter of time before the bulk of the public outrage surrounding the ableist comments made by Team New Zealand Roller Derby’s Head Coach Stacey Roper, aka Pieces of Hate, and the subsequent filing of a discrimination claim with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, dwindled.
In fact, a look at the New Zealand Rollergirls and REF Forum on Facebook, which touts over 1000 members, shows that the last thing anybody posted to do with the overall situation was an article shared from Elekrtaqtion’s blog on November 3rd. It received a handful of likes and no comments. Where once were emotional debates and productive conversation on the state of the sport both within New Zealand and abroad, the forum has since focused upon bout advertisements, marketing for a “Man Up!” calendar, shares for derby collectables like a Dr. Who themed shirt featuring a Dalek in a ref jersey with the subtitle “Officiate”, skate wheels for sale, talk of the WFTDA Championships, an NSOvember graphic, and, of course, a bunch of photos of World Cup viewing parties. Essentially, the redundant derby chitchat that we use as an escape has returned.
It’s frustrating to know that while many sit at home in New Zealand feeling uncertain and unheard in all that has transpired over the past several months, and reps within the NZRDA undoubtedly struggle to efficiently comply with the Human Rights Commission’s investigation (which may or may not have been concluded… no word on it yet), Roper is enjoying a wonderful vacay as Head Coach of Team NZ in the United States. Now, I of course cannot claim to know what has been going through Roper’s mind these past few days, however, I absolutely do think that it is entirely inappropriate that she has been allowed to retain her position and serve as an ambassador of the entire New Zealand roller derby community. When coaches around the world have been fired for the exact same behaviors in other sports, I find it pretty ridiculous that Roper gets a pass for her ableist remarks and incredibly questionable, if not outright discriminatory, roster selection process because… well, why? Because it’s just roller derby? Because she was elected into the role? Because there was absolutely nobody within OR outside of the NZRDA who could do anything about it?
A History of Hate?
It’s not just the allegations of discrimination and subsequent New Zealand Human Rights Commission investigation that casts a bleak shadow over Roper’s presence at the World Cup either. There is also the overlooked allegations of Roper abusing her power as Head Coach, verbally abusing various people working on Team NZ, and general bullying, that was brought to the NZRDA’s attention by Team New Zealand’s Team Manager Sarah Andrews Reynolds, aka Danger Spouse, back in late August (<- Click link to read the letter submitted to the NZRDA by Danger). Don’t recognize the name? That’s because Danger Spouse publically announced that she was quitting and that the NZRDA was looking for a new Team Manager of Team NZ on October 7, approximately two-weeks before news of more problems broke out on television in NZ. Her farewell post to Team NZ, which she also posted on the New Zealand Rollergirls and Ref forum, highlighted what she felt was a conflict of interest in members of the Board of Directors of the NZRDA being considered as skaters for Team NZ, and how she felt that played a part in stopping effective change from happening.
(This is a CC from a post to Team NZ)
Hi everybody – I’ve been missing from the world and there are some things to say about things.
1. I support the NZRDA’s decision to find a new team manager. I sincerely hope that person is able to find more success than I did in that role.
2. I dearly love each and every member of the First 30 and wish you all the best. It kills me to step aside from you.
3. I apologize for the manner in which I’ve gone missing over the last 4 weeks or more. The entire situation was very unhealthy for me and after a complete failure to effect real improvement I went into emotional hiding.
4. How did I get to this point?
From the very start, there were substantial disagreements about the division of responsibility between Coach and Manager. That is to say, Hate wanted to control everything and anything I did was seen as an invasion, attack or undermining of her authority. Hate would yell, swear at me, and throw abuse and defamation in public and in private. There was no supervison or mediation to settle these issues. As time went by things would get slightly better for a while and then much worse.
Key members of the NZRDA board who might have been able to effect change were caught in a conflict-of-interest – as hopeful members of the team they needed to keep on Hate’s good side, and no-one seemed to have any real leverage to fix things.
Many of you witnessed Pieces of Hate’s hostility, abuse and unprofessionalism toward me. Many of you were also subject to it yourselves. Nobody should have to put up with that under any circumstances. I stayed longer than I should have, attempting to help shield and support the team.
I’d like to thank the many people who gave me much love and expressions of sympathy. I’d also like to say to the board – “That’s Not Good Enough.”
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.
I recommend that in the future, board membership and team membership NOT be allowed to overlap. As for myself I would love to be part of any future Team NZ effort that Pieces of Hate is not part of.
I love NZ derby, I love you, and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.
- Danger Spouse
The biggest kicker of it all really is Danger’s comment of: “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.” ESPECIALLY when you consider all that happened afterward with Roper’s ableist comments, the backlash, the Human Rights Commission becoming involved and the petition for Stacey Roper to be removed as Head Coach.
A Petition Ignored?
That’s right, a Change.org petition calling for the Immediate Dismissal of Stacey Roper as Head Coach of Team NZ Roller Derby, which has received 271 signatures since October 31st, has gone completely unanswered. No public comment on it from the NZRDA at all and, as we all can plainly see, Stacey Roper is still Head Coach of Team NZ and is currently in the international spotlight representing the country at the World Cup of Roller Derby in Dallas, Texas, as you are reading this right now.
New Zealand League’s Take a Stand.
Where the NZRDA is not acting many leagues from around New Zealand have been. As some of you may have already known, Dunedin Derby publicly rescinded their affiliation to and support of the NZRDA on October 29th. This was Dunedin’s means of sending a clear message that they would not tolerate discrimination or support an ineffective organization. They are not the only ones to have cut ties with the NZRDA either. Over the past few weeks I have received a number of messages from various members of the New Zealand roller derby community informing me that several other top ranked teams have also left, albeit more quietly.
On October 24, the Pirate City Rollers (PCR) sent an Open Letter to the New Zealand Roller Derby Association (<- read it by clicking link) which raised “concerns with the NZRDA regarding some of its decisions and processes.” Much like Marcia Taylor, who asked for a response to her initial complaint of discrimination within a reasonable time frame, PCR requested a response to their letter within two weeks. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it, not even an indication that their letter had been read, let alone opened, by anyone at the NZRDA. As a result of this, PCR then rescinded their affiliation with the organization in early November.
I’ve also received confirmation via email from a representative of Richter City Roller Derby that they too have left the NZRDA. A quick look at the NZRDA’s Leagues by Region page, which lists their members, reveals that only 15 leagues remain affiliated. That is, of course, assuming that the list has been updated with any sort of consistency.
Tune In, But DON’T Tune Out…
Don’t loose heart though, New Zealand derby community! Countless other regions around the world have experienced VERY similar things to this and they all learned and grew from it. You too will come through on the other side all the stronger and wiser! Just make sure that this “cycle” I’ve heard many of you mention doesn’t start all over again. Push for change, take action, and keep the hard conversations going even as you are watching all of the bouts going on in Dallas this weekend!
Regardless, I’ll still be cheering for the hard working skaters on Team NZ and I’ll be cheering for Marcia Taylor too when she plays for Team Pangina in Vagina Regime’s show bout later today.
I just wish those who felt bullied along the way were there to experience it all instead of Roper.