The NRL has refused to allow a cardboard cutout of Matthew Johns to be displayed at empty stadiums, after the former player photshopped a life-size image of Adolf Hitler into the crowd during The Matty Johns Show.
The Hitler stunt earned Johns a barrage of criticism, and his second nomination for The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. The NRL decided that the ‘joke’ was so lame, and so offensive to so many people, that it has refused to associate itself with the former Newcastle star, in real life or in cardboard form.
The Frownlow Medal is awarded to the player whose off-field demeanour epitomises the values of the modern-day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A-League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while NRL player Ben Barba is the most recent recipient.
The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame honours former players and players who received media attention in previous seasons, for similarly scandalous behaviour, and its inductees include Ben Cousins and Julian O’Neill.
Johns ran the image of Hitler on his show in an attempt at humour, after the NRL began placing cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands of empty stadiums during the coronavirus restrictions.
Why Adolf Hitler?
Of all of the people in the world he could have placed in the crowd, he chose the most recognisable figure of racial hatred and cruelty in recent memory, at a time when the United States is imploding with racial violence, and Australia itself is bracing for public protests over police treatment of indigenous Australians.
What’s more astounding (maybe), is that the joke was approved by the producers of the The Matty Johns Show. Is this what passes as humour in Australia these days? Is the target audience of The Matty Johns Show so ignorant, racist, bigoted, intolerant and crass that they consider this funny? Is the show so desperate for ratings?
The offensive gesture was not only in poor taste, it was also one of the most pathetic actions to have passed by the judges of The Frownlow Medal. It does not stack up against bestiality, poo in a shoe, pub fights, golden fountains, flashing, taxi slapping, egging, sex tapes or peeing on a police car.
That said, Johns’ first Frownlow nomination followed an even more sinister incident. He was nominated for his role in the Cronulla Sharks group sex scandal, which featured on ABC 4 Corners. He also confessed to drinking alcohol during a church service for his son’s graduation, and was chastised previously on The Matty Johns Show for …racism.