Newcastle Falcons have launched an internal investigation to determine if any of the racism that former player Luther Burrell experienced in rugby union happened while at the club.
The ex-England centre has left the Falcons after two seasons.
Another former club Northampton Saints said they had been “reassured” he did not experience such abuse with them.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Burrell said he has been on the receiving end of comments about slavery and bananas and he wanted to “empower younger generations” by speaking out.
He says he will “never name names but it’s gone on for too long”.
“Following Luther Burrell speaking out over the weekend about his experiences throughout his long and distinguished career, Newcastle Falcons wishes to stress that it is determined to ensure our club is a welcoming and fully inclusive environment for everyone,” the Premiership club said.
“There is no place for racism in rugby, sport or any walk of life.
“We have spoken to Luther to offer our full support, and we are committed to determining whether any of the occasions he references took place during his time at Newcastle Falcons as part of a full internal investigation.”
Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney said he had spoken to Burrell, capped 15 times by England, and the governing body was “disturbed” and “apologised” for his experiences.
Simon Massie-Taylor, Premiership Rugby chief executive, also apologised to Burrell and said it had been “saddening to hear some of the language and attitudes he has been exposed to”.
Saints applaud Burrell’s bravery
Huddersfield-born Burrell played for Northampton between 2012 and 2019, winning the Premiership in 2014.
Saints chief executive Mark Darbon said the club was “saddened and appalled” by Burrell’s experiences and had “reached out to Luther to offer our support and applaud his bravery in speaking out”.
“Everyone at Northampton Saints was saddened and appalled to read Luther Burrell’s comments published yesterday, detailing the racist abuse he has experienced during his playing career,” added Darbon.
“We were reassured during our conversation that Luther did not experience any racial abuse during his time at Northampton Saints.
“The club will continue its ongoing work to make sure that Franklin’s Gardens remains an inclusive environment for all Northampton players, staff and supporters.
“We have invited Luther to return to Franklin’s Gardens in the coming months to contribute towards the diversity and inclusion projects already being delivered by the club’s community and commercial staff.”
Burrell, who also played for Leeds and Sale made his professional debut in 2006 and switched codes to rugby league in 2019 to play for Warrington Wolves.
He was officially released by Newcastle on Monday.
A statement from the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) on Monday said it had also spoken to Burrell and he had their “full support”.
“There is no place for the language used against Luther, and the attitudes that reveals, either in rugby or broader society,” the RPA said.
“His honest revelations only highlight the game’s need for meaningful conversations and education on what positive inclusive cultures should be.
“As our players have consistently said, positive change only comes through open dialogue from top to bottom in organisations, including players and all other groups.
“There has clearly never been a better time for the education and data collection, which will be rolled out across the men’s and women’s elite game in the coming season.”