NRL 2021: Apology to Parramatta Eels' Junior Paulo over racist gorilla emoji

The NRL has apologised to Parramatta Eels forward Junior Paulo, after posting his image alongside a gorilla emoji on social media.

Auckland-born Paulo, 27, scored the decisive try in his side's round-one victory over Brisbane Broncos last weekend, crossing in the 78th minute of the 24-16 win.

But the NRL's official Twitter and Instagram accounts posted an image of Paulo's try celebrations, captioned with "JUNIOR" and a gorilla icon.

The tweet was taken down after half an hour, but the Instagram post remained - albeit with the gorilla emoji swapped out for a steaming face.

Gorilla and monkey imagery has become synonymous with racism, directed towards people of colour.

In response, the NRL has apologised for the incident, with chief executive Andrew Abdo labelling it "clearly inappropriate".

"This was a very bad error of judgement," says Abdo. "The emoji was clearly inappropriate and it should never have been posted.

"I have personally apologised to Junior and the club, and we are reviewing our social media processes to ensure there are stronger checks and balances in place, before an item is posted.

"We will also engage in further education programmes with the team responsible for our social media accounts."

An Eels spokesperson has confirmed that the club is satisfied with the NRL's response to the incident.

Paulo though appeared unfased, replying to the NRL's initial Instagram post with a gorilla emoji of his own, before both were removed. But, it is unclear whether or not Paulo's post was removed under directive of the Eels or the NRL.

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