NRL backs calls for commentators to pronounce Pacific rugby players' names correctly

The NRL has backed calls for sports commentators to improve their pronunciation of Pacific players' names, amid a row over the commentary of the recent Pacific Rugby League Internationals.

NRL education and wellbeing manager Nigel Vagana told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the onus is on commentators and broadcast networks to educate themselves.

"It should be a given for any person that your name is said properly, whether you're in the NRL or not. It's a sign of respect," the former player said.

"From an NRL perspective we have the capacity to put pressure on these media outlets to at least acknowledge the damage they're doing to some of these individuals and communities when [names] aren't said correctly.

"If that isn't taken seriously or it doesn't improve, then we've got to look at more drastic measures to make sure it does."

New Zealand's Pacific Islands Media Association said it complained to Australia's Fox Sports about alleged mispronunciations after its broadcast of the Pacific Rugby League Internationals earlier this month.

Fox Sports has declined to comment.

'It's definitely insulting'

Mr Vagana said he believed broadcasters were getting better at getting names right, but he understood why Polynesian and Melanesian communities can be aggrieved if they hear mistakes.

"I think it's definitely insulting when somebody doesn't say your name correctly, regardless of what your background is," he said.

"Whether it's malicious or racist, that's the opinion that some people have. For me personally, I don't think it's that's way.

"I think it's probably more ignorance, if anything, and lack of exposure to opportunities to be able to be educated on correct pronunciations."

He said the NRL includes phonetic pronunciation of players' names in media guides and he invites commentators to approach him if they are unsure.

"There are a couple of commentators in the past few years that have contacted me directly when they're umm-ing and aah-ing about a certain Polynesian name," he said.

"We talk it through and then they go off on their merry way."

Mr Vagana said believed a simple solution is for NRL clubs to include audio pronunciations on player profiles on their websites, where it would be "accessible to anyone and everyone".

Broadcasters win praise from Fiji rugby league legend

Not everyone has been critical of the recent commentary.

Fijian great Petero Civoniceva told Pacific Beat earlier this month he was impressed by the efforts Fox Sports commentators made to get the players' names right ahead of the Pacific Rugby League Internationals.

"We actually had the Fox Sports callers come to training to sit down with the boys individually to get the actual pronunciation for each of their names, which is something that's never happened before," he told Pacific Beat.

"All in all, when you're looking at it, at least the effort was made.

"To get the pronunciation right means a hell of a lot to the players, and to people back in the islands, it's wonderful to know that the pronunciations are done correctly and the effort is made.

"So I thought they did a good job."


ABC Australia