NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has declared that homophobic slurs will not be tolerated in the game after Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya was suspended on Tuesday night.
A public apology and vow to never again use a gay slur helped Montoya to escape with a four-match ban but Abdo made it clear after the hearing that there was no place in the game for such comments.
“Rugby league is a game for everyone, that’s what I love most about our game. I’m proud that we bring people together," Abdo said.
“It doesn’t matter where you are born, your gender or sexual orientation – rugby league is for everyone.
“That’s why Indigenous Round, Women In League Round, Multicultural Round and participating in the Mardi Gras every year are so important to us. These events represent and celebrate who we are and what we stand for.
“The homophobic language used in Friday night’s game between the Warriors and the Cowboys was unacceptable. It will not be tolerated.
"I commend the Match Review Committee for referring the matter to the Judiciary and I support a suspension being imposed.
“I’d like to acknowledge Marcelo Montoya for accepting responsibility for his actions and his genuine remorse. Marcelo made a poor mistake and he will learn from this experience.
“This is a reminder to all players that the game will not tolerate such conduct.”
Montoya had earlier pleaded guilty to making the slur to Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt and revealed how he had approached Warriors coach Nathan Brown and CEO Cameron George last weekend to confess.
He asked to make a public apology during the judiciary hearing, which last about 90 minutes.
"I acknowledge and accept that the comment I made on Friday night is completely unacceptable. If you know the person I am you would know this is completely out of character. I am fully remorseful for my actions," Montoya said.
"In saying all of this I would like to apologise to Kyle Feldt, to the NRL and to the gay community, and anyone else that I have offended, as I know and respect the work that the NRL has done to ensure inclusiveness and diversity within the NRL community.
"Moving forward I can only assure you that I have learned from this lesson and this will never have again."
The incident occurred after referee Todd Smith penalised Montoya for a high tackle on former Warriors team-mate Peta Hiku during last Friday night's 25-24 defeat of the Cowboys at Moreton Daily Stadium.
Warriors players tried to convince Smith that it was simply a hard tackle, with prop Matt Lodge making reference to comments by Cowboys coach Todd Payten about teams near the bottom of the ladder being less favoured.
Match Highlights: Warriors v Cowboys
"You're kidding, because Todd had a whinge to you," Lodge said.
Montoya then shouted at Feldt, who was down in back play: "Get up Kyle you fa---t".
"There was no intention by me to offend anyone or offend Kyle. It was just the heat of the moment and it was just a word that come out," Montoya said.
"I used the word to get under his skin or to just upset him. It wasn't used to refer to his sexuality at all. I am not a homophobe and gays in the community are valued. That is my position. I take full responsibility for that."
The judiciary panel believed that Montoya was genuinely remorseful and was a person of good character on-and-off-the-field, with George outlining a list of charity work the Fiji international does.
"It is never the less objectively serious," Bellew said. "In reaching their decision the panel accepted that the player did not intend to engage in any form of homosexual discrimination or vilification.
"However, the player has admitted that what he said was highly offensive and more importantly had the capacity to be discriminatory towards, to promote the hatred and vilification of, and to be harmful and insulting to members of the community.
"The panel was also particularly mindful of the fact that the NRL has been at the forefront of inclusiveness and diversity in all aspects of the game."
George said afterwards that the Warriors accepted the penalty, which will sideline Montoya until the round 10 clash with South Sydney.
“We know how disappointed Marcelo is with himself. He’s devastated and we really feel for him and what he has been going through,” George said.
“As a club we don’t condone such behaviour in any circumstances and nor does Marcelo. He will learn from this and will use it to move forward from this episode and be the best person he can be. We’ll offer him all the support he needs.”