Saturday, October 25, 2014

The New Zealand Roller Derby Community In Crisis

[Please note: I've come to regret this post. I'm not deleting it as I don't do that (it's a thing). I've written another post, as kind of a clarification, on my feelings towards this and what I hope is a more positive way to proceed.]

The New Zealand roller derby scene found itself on TV for the wrong things this week. It's been dreadful. A complaint has been placed with the Human Rights Commission for discrimination following the selection for Team NZ to represent NZ in the Roller Derby World Cup held in Dallas, Texas at the end of the year.

The complaints revolve around the head coach, "Pieces of Hate" (shortened to Hate).

Back in early October, the Team Manager, "Danger Spouse", quit, citing issues with bullying from the Team Coach and issues with the division of labour. She also went on to say that there was no supervision or mediation to settle the disputes and that key members of the governing body, the NZRDA (New Zealand Roller Derby Association) were caught in a conflict of interest due to their also trying out for Team New Zealand and "Pieces of Hate" having a big voice on selection.

Only a few days later, the final 20 (cut down from 30) was announced. The one player with disabilities, "Meat Train", wasn't picked. What followed though was an interesting response... the head coach wrote a facebook status which is the crux of the complaint. In it she said the following:
Liabilities: This one I hate because I tried so hard to make it work. If someone can't hear a penalty given to them and needs a team mate to skate over to them and shake their arm to get them off the track before an insub (short for insubordination foul) is given and while they do that they leave their position in the wall creating a space for the opposition to exploit, then we have a serious problem...
This is discrimination. It wasn't her abilities by which her selection or lack there of was based on. It was her disabilities.

Funnily enough, they would have been on better footing if "Meat Train" hadn't been selected in the top 30. Those issues cited by "Pieces of Hate" existed well before selection. But to lead a player on, ask her to travel around the country and give up weekends (which apparently she gave up paid employment for) to be rejected from the team based upon information that existed well before selection is cause for some serious concern.

The NZRDA had this to say on it:
In light of recent comments by the Team NZ Coach on her personal Facebook page NZRDA would like to make an official statement. We would like to apologise on behalf of NZRDA. Pieces of Hate's statements were not sanctioned by NZRDA and did not represent us as an association. Our task is to support all members.NZRDA offers congratulations to the 20 skaters selected to represent New Zealand in the Roller Derby World Cup 2014. We understand the extreme effort made by every single one of the 30 strong squad. Thank you for your passion and commitment.
"Pieces of Hate" was apparently also asked to issue an apology though I have not seen any such thing. The page, the Pieces of Hate fanpage, has disappeared from Facebook.

On the 15th of October, the NZRDA were sent a letter from Meat Train asking for a full investigation to be done on Pieces of Hate's conduct. The letter was made public on the 23rd of October. The story was reported on TV news on the 24th of October and the NZRDA finally responded on the 25th.

Their response was TERRIBLE. They apparently did conduct an investigation, and I'm told the investigation was fair, BUT it's a completely moot point.

The statement sounds like it's written by someone trying to do a terrible imitation of a press release. They got some things horribly horribly wrong. For example (the greatest hits):

  • In concluding we found that standing down Hate at this pivotal stage would be detrimental to the final 20 squad.
  • Hate was voted into this position from the New Zealand Roller Derby Community. Therefore she deserves respect in terms of her commitment and dedication to an unpaid NZ Head Coach position.
  • As a newly established association we have our own Code of Conduct which is stipulated in our Constitution.
  • In our findings Hate knew the final decision was going to be difficult due to the high calibre of skaters selected in the 30 training squad.
The first point reads as "we can't afford to find anything other than what we found". A strong reason for bias. And that was their conclusion?!?....

The second point... Where do I start?
  • In the entire statement they don't refer to "Pieces of Hate" but rather, just "Hate". Given that this has had national exposure, and it's pretty bad practise anyway, the term "Hate" should not be used. 'Pieces of Hate' or her real name should have been used instead.
  • This is sounding like "You, the roller derby community, voted for hate and hate is what you got. Your fault. Not ours".
  • Unpaid position... NEVER EVER do that in a press release statement. It reads as "we don't mind poor behaviour so long as it's for free".
The third point just has me scratching my head. What are they trying to say here? It's either "We're ill-equipped to handle this situation because we're a new organisation" or "Because we're new we have a new shiny code of conduct". I've been told to read it as "We acted according to our code of conduct to this situation by...." but that's not what is reads. A statement is about what's read into it and what is said rather than the intention. This is why they sound so guarded.

The fourth point: They used Pieces of Hate's words verbatim. That is no way anyone following this could conclude that this investigation was impartial based upon the information contained within this statement. 

The question remains if the NZRDA understand just how serious this is and if they do, why are they then not giving the situation the gravity it deserves? An ill-worded statement which highlights the issues they're choosing to ignore would imply that they're not taking this at all seriously.

To add to this, they deleted the comments off the post containing the statement with the following reason:

Hi all , Ive deleted the comments due to a physical threat been made and inappropriate comments made towards members of the top 20 .
I didn't see such comment and I watched in horror as the comments were deleted individually (A refresh showed some comments whereas a lot were missing. Another refresh, more comments had going missing).

The NZRDA have put themselves squarely in the firing line as they have been complicit to the bullying behaviour and discrimination through their inaction. Their soft stance has unfortunately been reinforced by a terrible statement. As a statement, it couldn't be better written to put the NZRDA further down the hole. However, given their "administering" to the comments made on the statement, it would seem that they stand behind their statement.

Pieces of Hate has been offhanded about the situation, saying this to "3 News":

It was a silly off-the-cuff comment. It meant no disrespect. It was just trying to explain to people the thing you go through when you are looking at considering people for teams.

"Silly off-the-cuff".... Regrettable, sure. Describing herself breaking the law, yep.. Silly and off-the-cuff, nope. She broke the law. There's no getting around it. Should she get away with it due to stupidity? She's basically the dumbarse who wears a motor cycle helmet with their name on to do a bank robbery. Given that there's a history of "disciplinary actions" i.e. asked for an apology that doesn't appear to be given, there's no defence that could possibly be made in "the post was made by someone else and had nothing to do with me at all". Ignorance of the law is not a defence.

Pieces of Hate, I fear, is going to have a really hard time of it. The NZRDA have, in their incompetence, put themselves in the same basket and are likely to struggle to distance themselves from it.

Roller derby in New Zealand is going to have to take a long hard look at the structure of such an organisation. If excuses are being made due to their being volunteers.... They are voted to their positions. If they are unwilling to act in the position they are elected to, then they should have not stood for the position... The New Zealand roller derby community deserves better.

[Update: 25th October 11pm - same day as the statement] 
The statement from NZRDA has been deleted. The reaction to the statement has been sour at best. While there were some people who seemed to be struggling to be constructive, the general consensus was "This is not good enough".

As in the investigation looked to be completely irrelevant and therefore the NZRDA was supporting what is illegal behaviour. The stupid thing is that a proper statement would have taken all of 10 minutes. It would have been a guarded "we are protecting ourselves" kind of a statement but, if done properly, would have served a few purposes.
  • Take a stand neither which way which seems to be what they want to do.
  • Distance themselves from the actions of Pieces of Hate.
  • Assured the community that they would be working to resolve this issue and any others in the future.

[Update: 26th October 2:30am]
I managed to find a full copy of the statement here. Which is a Canadian blogging about NZ's derby issues....
In light of the story broadcast on TV 3 last night featuring NZ Training Squad Member Marcia Taylor, NZRDA would like to publicly issue a statement surrounding this broadcast.

We apologise for any misunderstanding it may have caused and we appreciate the opportunity to clarify what happened.

We received a complaint from Miss Taylor in regards to the Head Coach of the New Zealand Roller Derby Team. We had notified Miss Taylor that a full investigation was to be undertaken by us. As a newly established association we have our own Code of Conduct which is stipulated in our Constitution. The investigation was time consuming and a 7 day deadline set by Miss Taylor was just not practical. We wanted to ensure that we gathered all the relevant information before reaching a decision. Upon our findings we actioned the conduct of Hate under our discretionary powers in accordance with our Code of Conduct. She was also very cooperative in our investigation and understood the seriousness of her conduct. She complied professionally with all of our demands and was told to make a public apology regarding her conduct. We followed suit and publicly issued an apology ensuring that she understood that her conduct was not acceptable.
In our findings Hate knew the final decision was going to be difficult due to the high calibre of skaters selected in the 30 training squad. It was made clear that 10 players would not make the final 20 and unfortunately Miss Taylor was unsuccessful. We have sympathy for all of the 10 players not selected to represent NZ in the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup. She selected the final 20 in a fair and logical manner based on their overall performance and stat results, and we support her decision. In concluding we found that standing down Hate at this pivotal stage would be detrimental to the final 20 squad. Hate was voted into this position from the New Zealand Roller Derby Community. Therefore she deserves respect in terms of her commitment and dedication to an unpaid NZ Head Coach position.
We do not support any type of discrimination and want to rectify any hurt that this has entailed. We have established a Mediation Committee to conduct a Mediation process. Once again, this was a time consuming process where we wanted to make sure the right persons were voted in to conduct this. We hope that the Mediation process will help us to rectify any future discrimination issues. We hope that we can resolve this with Miss Taylor and ensure that policies and procedures will be put in place.

- New Zealand Roller Derby Association
Stacey "Pieces of Hate" Roper has been referenced elsewhere in regards to this issue. A few comments on the statement indicated that there is a pattern of bullying.

[Update: 27th October 12:14am]

It's been kind of a busy day and I've been getting all sorts of interesting information. The statement exists on the NZRDA website. The reasoning for removing it from facebook is that with the structure of the NZRDA such as it is, no individual is empowered to speak on behalf of the NZRDA, thus, with all the comments flying about, no one could address the concerns. Thus social media was not the best of places to make a statement.

Of course this has been taken with the hostility that you'd expect. Cries of censorship. I think I would have been okay with this whole episode if the statement had been done a lot better.  Communications with NZRDA have now defaulted back to the official channels i.e. Through representatives.

11 comments:

  1. Good luck to any person who can find out who the NZRDA management are. You thought the CIA was a secret service, this group is worse.

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  2. This is really a load of crap, and the media have blown it all out...why do a story on the positive side of what's going on and not on those few who hate a certain person because they were not voted as 1. Head coach of the NZ roller derby team, or 2. Got Sacked from management due to their incompetence and the fact they treat the head coach with so much disrespect because a member of their own league was not voted in as Head coach and 3. a person who would of made the squad had she been the best for the position and not based on any other reason. Im sure meat train would of totally made the squad had she improved to the point she was the best player for the top 20...as any coach knows you take a player as far as you can hoping they improve on their own merits and if they don't to the point of the top 20 well then you have to cut them,...end of story right? no some people with rather large egos has to attack the head coach to the point of this and it's doing nothing for the future of the leagues or the sport, right when team NZ needs it most! Im saddened and heart broken for the top 20 especially the Head coach and Sad also for those who didn't make the top 20 to the point they have to lash out for their rejection!

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    1. That's not what I read into the situation at all.

      Meat Train didn't make the squad. Fine. But then, here's the problem. The statement, from Pieces of Hate herself, the one that made it quite clear that she considered Meat Train a liability to the squad, not due to a lack of ability, but rather, her disability. Punctuating it with a "they call it a disability for a reason".

      That is damning. It would be in Pieces of Hate's best interests to try and turn this into an argument about sour grapes. But the complaint is quite clearly about discrimination - that Meat Train has been discriminated against. In the head coaches own words, that she considered disability as a factor when making her final cut.

      From what I've heard, everyone is pretty happy with the final 20. There is another rumour flying about which I'm not going to give credence to, but for the most part, I think people are generally happy the right choices has been made.

      The question isn't around the final 20. It's around a head coach, who has quite clearly broken the law, has been unrepentant about doing so (an apology that has since disappeared, posted not in the same manner and place as the offending statement was made) and is oh so very happy to attempt to down play it to the media. It is illegal. What she did, is not at all, in anyway, not in modern society, acceptable.

      I'm not all that sorry in saying I fully understand why the pitchforks are out. The problem though, the NZRDA can only act within it's own rules. Any organisation is bound by their own rules - even when concerning illegal acts.

      So when you sign an employment contract, for example, there will be a clause about gross misconduct. It will also talk about the penalties available to the employer when addressing misconduct.

      The NZRDA, I'm guessing, don't have any such agreement with Pieces of Hate and so have to tread very lightly... I don't think Pieces of Hate should take that as support...

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  3. “This is really a load of crap, and the media have blown it all out...”
    Do you mean blatant discrimination is a load of crap, and really we should just accept that it is not that big a deal? Can you imagine any other elite level coach publically confirming that discrimination was a part of their selection process?
    Whether or not the skater would have made it on the team or not via skating ability is irrelevant – the selector stated she was excluded due to her ‘disability’. That is simply unacceptable at any level of sport, and outrageous at an international representative level.


    “why do a story on the positive side of what's going on and not on those few who hate a certain person because they were not voted as 1. Head coach of the NZ roller derby team, or 2. Got Sacked from management due to their incompetence and the fact they treat the head coach with so much disrespect because a member of their own league was not voted in as Head coach and..”
    Pieces of Hat made the story all on her own with her actions, the NZRDA executive gave fuel to the fire by their actions. Again, are you suggesting that the selector’s blatant discrimination is ok? Should Meat Train have just accepted it? What would you do?

    The outrage of this story has nothing to do with those two other people you mention. Although, heaven knows why they have remained silent on their own very unjust treatment by Pieces of Hate. There is simply no evidence of any conspiracy against her.

    If the selector hadn’t behaved the way she did then there would be no story. Think about that for a minute. The general uprising of anger towards Pieces of Hate is due to the environment she has fostered, and the manner in which she has treated people; she reaps what she sows. Its true she has been directly challenged, and rightly so, she has routinely ignored policies and procedures of the derby community, she has also ignored basic coaching strategies for elite level sport.

    “Im saddened and heart broken for the top 20” really? I am also saddened for the top 20 players in New Zealand. Mainly because some of the top 20 have been excluded from traveling to the world cup due to Pieces of Hates highly questionable selection process. There are at least a couple of skaters who would easily rank higher than the bottom 5 on the team –why were they excluded? Dig a little deeper and the answer is fairly clear, and not surprising given the selectors past behaviour. This mess brought about by this selection is very unfair to roller derby New Zealand and all the good work done by so many people (including Pieces of Hate).
    PS –that’s some brave words of conspiracy from anonymity… 

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  4. I think I've come up with the right turn of phrase to describe this:

    A dear caught in the headlights is complicit in its getting run over by virtue of not having moved out of the way.

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    1. "A dear caught in the headlights is complicit in its getting run over by virtue of not having moved out of the way." -yeah seems to very well describe NZRDA executive in this situation. If nothing else this situation should put some fire in the belly with respect to a constitution / policies etc.

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    2. I got curious (a bit of light reading before bed). EXACTLY like a deer caught in headlights. Only it's a feeble, tiny, horribly cute deer.

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  5. Stacy Roper has a very very long history of bullying and egomania, those of us who were part of the early days know exactly what she is like, and MANY of us left because of her.
    I suggest people try get a hold of a copy of "Pretty Brutal" the documentary that was made on the pirates early days, it gives a very good indication of who this woman is and what she is like to try and work with on any level.

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    1. Thanks for that. I think I had seen the preview previously and wanted to watch it and then forgot all about it. Of course, it'd be good to have some sort of source for the film. Even the website is a lack of a website (coming soon!).

      I think Stacey Roper being a bully is probably THE worst kept secret in NZ Roller Derby. I mean, this has all played out a bit like watching "The Office". Gareth goes to say something and in your head you're yelling at him "No. Don't. Don't do it". You hate that he did it, but you're not surprised.

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  6. Can anyone point out the issues from 2011? I keep hearing that it was a bit of a mess (I'm guessing not as big a mess as this, but a mess none-the-less).

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  7. http://www.rollerderby.org.nz/news/2014/10/30/nzrda-statement-30-october-2014

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