The Canberra Cavalry baseball club is under fire over a disturbing video showing an under age player sculling from a beer bong with encouragement from senior players after a home win earlier this year.
Footage obtained by the ABC shows a 17-year-old player drinking alcohol through a beer bong held up by a senior player standing on a seat as other players urge him on and others describe his form as weak.
The video filmed on Saturday, 27 January, following the Cavalry’s home win over Brisbane, shows a player encouraging the younger player and commenting on his performance, saying: “He’s going to throw up! Scull you d***head, come on!”
When the teenager finishes sculling, the players applaud him, as one yells, “That was pretty weak, he f***ing threw up after — that’s pathetic, give him another one!”
Cavalry in damage control over under age drinking rite
The Canberra Cavalry baseball club is under fire over a disturbing video obtained by the ABC showing an under age player sculling from a beer bong after a home win earlier this year.
Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, May 7, 2018
Cavalry CEO Donn McMichael said he was concerned about how the incident reflected on the Canberra Cavalry but denied that the club had failed in its duty of care.
“I am very concerned about the revelation as it contravenes our strict player code of conduct and potentially reflects badly on the Canberra Cavalry,” Mr McMichael said.
“I don’t believe we have failed our duty of care to our players. The ABL has strict policies in place regarding behaviour, drugs and alcohol, and are included in the contracts that the players sign prior to setting foot on the diamond to play. These are highlighted at a team meeting prior to the season’s commencement.”
The video was filmed at the Cavalry’s home ground, MIT Ballpark in Narrabundah, with the players still in uniform. Mr McMichael said the incident occurred two hours after the game had ended and there were no fans or members of the public present.
The players involved were reprimanded for a breach of the code of conduct but the CEO said no fines or suspensions were handed out.
“I have spoken with the players involved and reminded them that the Canberra Cavalry does not condone the provision of alcohol to minors,” Mr McMichael said.
“The Canberra Cavalry has strong policy guidelines/player code of conduct around such circumstances and that a further breach of the code of conduct would lead to fines and or suspension from playing.”
Mr McMichael said this was the first alcohol-related incident for the Canberra Cavalry.
“In the eight years that the club has existed, this is the first alcohol-related incident,” he said.
“The club will continue to do what it has previously done and that is to reaffirm our code of conduct both at the signing of the players’ contracts and in a team meeting prior to the commencement of the season.
“I will also ensure that a member of the Canberra Cavalry management staff will be present at all times post games until all players have left the venue and the gates have been locked.”
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education Chief Executive Michael Thorn says the footage clearly depicts a dangerous alcohol culture within the club and a lack of alcohol policy controls that should protect club members from harm.
“The video is damning. The club has failed in its duty of care to its young players, and it clearly speaks of a lack alcohol policy measures and enforcement within the club and the Australian Baseball League that should keep under age players safe from harm,” Mr Thorn said.
FARE was made aware of the video earlier this year and wrote to both the Australian Baseball League and the Canberra Cavalry on 9 April requesting an urgent meeting.
Mr Thorn said the foundation wanted the opportunity to discuss ways in which the League and the club could ensure the health and safety of its members. According to Mr Thorn, Cavalry responded via a phone call and said they didn’t want to meet with the foundation and the ABL gave no response.
After the release of the video this morning, the ABL reached out and agreed to meet this coming Friday (11 May).
Former Canberra Cavalry development coach John Edwards claims the video is not a one-off aberration, but evidence of an insidious, well established and long-ignored harmful alcohol culture.
Mr Edwards has personally raised his concerns about the Canberra Cavalry’s poor culture, including bullying of young players along with drug and alcohol use and claims there is not only a lack of accountability from the front office and coaches about these matters, but a complete unwillingness to act.
“The club has lost a number of players due to these issues, but to date, my concerns have fallen on deaf ears. I hope the publication of the video is a wake-up call to the Club and the League that these problems will no longer be ignored,” Mr Edwards said.
Mr Thorn says the negative impact of alcohol in sport, both on players and more widely on children through their exposure to alcohol advertising, is a problem that extends beyond baseball and across Australia’s major sporting codes.
However, he believes codes such as the Australian Baseball League could lead from the front on the issue if they chose to do so.
“Ultimately this is a problem that extends beyond the baseball diamond and beyond the clubhouse. Millions of Australian children are exposed to alcohol advertising through sport, and all the evidence shows that such exposure is associated with young people drinking more and from an earlier age,” he said.
“The Australian Baseball League and the Canberra Cavalry have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership not only across the league but to the Australian public by cleaning up its dangerous alcohol culture and severing its alcohol sponsorship ties,” Mr Thorn said.
Updated at 5:35 pm
Cavalry CEO Donn McMichael released a statement this afternoon in response to the ‘beer bong’ video:
Dear Members of the Cavalry Community,
Today, some media outlets shared a video of a concerning incident which occurred at our ballpark after a Cavalry game last season. We were alerted to this incident earlier this year and took steps internally as soon as we became aware of it to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The players that have worn the Cavalry orange are great young men. But no one is perfect and we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure a safe environment for all of our players.
We believe the answer to this issue is education. After learning about this incident, we engaged ACT Health Drug and Alcohol Services to help educate our players and staff ahead of next season about the dangers of underage drinking. Our management team will also take a more active role in overseeing team gatherings at the ballpark.
We appreciate the support we’ve had from the community for the past eight seasons, especially as we move into a new era of community-focused ownership. This isolated incident is not a reflection of our strong Cavalry values and we trust the learnings from this incident make us a better organisation going forward.