By M.J. Bale Staff
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg is proving himself to be one of Australia’s most progressive sports administrators in arguably the toughest team sporting code on the planet. “Leadership is doing the right thing, even when it is the toughest option”, he says. “I would like to think I do have a moral compass and that I try to stick to it.”
On September 21 the Sydney Morning Herald’s Chief Sports Writer, Andrew Webster, penned a moving piece discussing the endorsement of same-sex marriage by National Rugby League CEO, Todd Greenberg. A gay man and lifelong rugby league supporter, Webster wrote about his childhood love for the game and the secret shame that almost consumed him. “I loved footy but I hated myself,” wrote Webster. “In absolute silence, I devised ways to commit suicide if anyone ever discovered the dirty little secret that I was gay.”
Webster concluded his story by saying that, “If the people who ran the game then publicly declared its support for same-sex marriage, they would be declaring that I was OK, too.”
Powerful stuff, and M.J. Bale tips its hat to Webster for a typically fearless personal insight.
On the eve of the Dally M Awards, M.J. Bale sat down with Greenberg – who we are dressing for the event – to talk to him about leadership, his own moral compass and, an M.J. Bale staple, what are the characteristics of a gentleman?
M.J. Bale: Todd, you took a pretty brave stance recently on the SSM issue. Why is SSM such an important issue for the NRL?
Todd Greenberg: One of our key pillars is ‘inclusiveness’. Anyone can be part of our sport. We mean that. And there is no use having it as a pillar and simply talking about it... we need to act on it, too. I received a letter from Ian Roberts, one of the toughest men to play Rugby League, to support SSM. Ian was also one of the first players to openly declare his sexuality in an era where that took a lot of courage. His message to me was that supporting SSM would save lives... the lives of young people. So, we had no hesitation in supporting SSM, not just in support of Ian, but because it is the right thing to do.
M.J. Bale: It was pretty strong leadership…
Todd Greenberg: I think leadership is doing the right thing, even when it is the toughest option. The easiest thing for us to do was say that SSM is a political issue and that we did not want to get involved. But we became the first major sporting organisation to support the concept - and the other major sports followed. I think there is no more rewarding aspect of leadership than knowing you did the right thing and seeing people get in behind you.
M.J. Bale: Rugby league is one of the toughest contact sports in the world, but is there room in the game for gentlemen? What in your opinion makes a gentleman?
Todd Greenberg: I think it comes down to decency. I have seen some of the toughest rugby league players of all time… players who turn into the fiercest of competitors once they run on to the field. But their manners, respect and decency kick in as soon as they come off the field. I think as long as you treat people with respect - no matter who they are - you are on the way to becoming a good style of person.
M.J. Bale: We know the importance of sticking to the dress code, but what type of internal code do you have? Would you say that you have a moral compass?
Todd Greenberg: I would like to think I do have a moral compass and that I try to stick to it. That includes listening to other’s views and giving them respect for those views. I may not always agree with it. I may not implement it. But I will always respect their right to have a different view. So, I think listening, treating people with respect and acknowledging the right of others to have different opinions are all keys to a good moral compass.
M.J. Bale: No man is an island. We all have mentors, whether family or otherwise. What is an example of great advice given to you as a younger man that has held you in good stead? Any tips on how we can become better men?
Todd Greenberg: My best piece of advice came from my parents: ‘you will never go wrong doing what's right’. They also created a strong family environment that ensured I was always provided with encouragement and support.