Is it fair for sport stars to be held to account for silly or crude photos of them posted online?
Rugby league star Todd Carney did not, in fact, drink his own urine, his agent has been at pains to clarify this morning.
"It's a setup, like when people stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa," David Riolo told Fairfax Media's Australian radio station 2UE this morning.
Riolo said that the Cronulla Sharks star never intended for the picture to be made public, but its airing on Twitter has caused the club to sack Carney - terminating his A$3.5 million (NZ$3.76 million) five-year contract.
"Todd's paid a very, very heavy price for a photo that he didn't want out there or upload himself. it was supposed to be kept between mates,'' Riolo said
His attempt to counter an explosion of bad press coincided with a Sharks crisis meeting at Remondis Stadium, their first since Carney was sacked after the emergence of a picture of the player engaging in the lewd act in a nightclub toilet.
Riolo confirmed that his client was feeling betrayed after he was dismissed by the Sharks on Sunday. When asked to confirm that it was one of Carney's ''friends'' who released the photo, he replied: "I use that word loosely.''
"The person who took the photo contacted me this morning by text and said 'My phone got lost' - supposedly - and that's how the photo got out. It was meant to be a joke."
Riolo said the incident should not have been a sacking offence and said that the club's managers had acted too quickly.
"He's now got a photo of himself gone worldwide in not a very pleasant setting that's going to be on the net for his family and everyone to see for future generations. That in itself is a very big price to pay."
Riolo denied reports this morning that the five-eighth had committed two previous, potentially more serious breaches of Cronulla's code of conduct earlier this year that may have made this weekend's sacking inevitable.
"There's been no serious allegations that I'm aware of that have come across my desk in writing," he said.
"I get 1000 emails every time Todd steps out."
He said a legal challenge to Carney's sacking appeared unlikely.
Sharks players started arriving at Remondis Stadium from 8am and to attend a meeting with club boss Steve Noyce. The players were tight lipped as they entered the ground before a field session.
They play the Roosters on Friday night.
Riolo has hit out at Cronulla for not affording the star five-eighth an opportunity to explain himself at a hearing before terminating his contract.
Carney was sacked less than 24 hours after another patron at Northies hotel in Cronulla on Saturday night took a photograph of him apparently urinating into his own mouth and uploaded it on Twitter. While he did not defend his client's actions, Riolo said the process followed by the Sharks had not been fair.
"This decision is indicative of where Cronulla has been in recent times and their organisation from board level down," Riolo said.
"I'm not defending the photo or anything like that but I think he deserved an opportunity to at least front the board to put forward a statement on his own behalf before they terminated a five-year contract."
It was the third time Carney has been sacked by an NRL club.
Sharks chief executive Steve Noyce said the club had no choice but to sack the player.
"I have spoken to Todd several times today and obviously it is a difficult situation for him. It is difficult for all of us, but clubs have to have high standards," Noyce said.
"The game, the community, our stakeholders all demand that and it is important that we are proud to represent this great club, play in this great game and meet the standards that are expected of all of us."
It is understood that Carney was prepared to accept a massive fine and/or suspension for the rest of the season. However, by sacking him, the Sharks may have ended his NRL career.
"The way we behave today is subject to mobile phones and all sorts of communication channels. Social media, if used properly, is a great way to get messages out there but obviously for him and his family and for the club and for lots of people that image is not what Todd and the club stand for," Noyce said.
"We live as a club 365 days a year, we play 26 rounds of football, we want to play in finals series, we have stakeholders, we have licenced clubs, we have residential partners and partners who support us. That means we have responsibility to the game and to other clubs."
Carney's sacking drew sympathy from some other players, with St George Illawarra forward Joel Thompson tweeting: "Whoever leaked that photo of Toddy is nothing but a dog... Can't even have a joke in the privacy of a toilet#feelforhim".
Former Dragons centre Matt Cooper tweeted: "Sad to see what has happened to Todd Carney".
However, former Sharks chairman Damian Irvine said on Twitter that Carney had been an accident waiting to happen and criticised the club for ignoring the warning .
"Common knowledge TC had digressed to previous behaviours recently, club ignored it. Tolerance=acceptance. Yet as this 1 is public they act?," Irvine tweeted.
"Either ban gambling and drinking culture and sponsors, or use common sense and treat mental health same as other injuries. Diagnose, treat, rehab."
Cronulla players abandoned a weights and gym session this morning following an emotional and occasionally fiery meeting with Sharks chief executive Steve Noyce over the sacking of Carney.
''The players had a meeting with Noycey, and he outlined to them why Todd had to be sacked and they were allowed to have their say,'' a Sharks spokesman told AAP.
''The session wasn't cancelled as such, it was more rescheduled until tomorrow, but a few of the players needed to clear their heads and went off to do their own thing.''
A battery of TV cameras greeted the players at Remondis Stadium and some members of the squad reacted angrily as they departed in what has become the latest drama affecting the club, which is still under the microscope of the ASADA investigation.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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