Origin veteran reveals how community took aim
SAM Thaiday has opened up about the hurt caused to his family following his controversial comments on the Footy Show.
Thaiday's poor attempt at humour on the television show's "player probe" segement - during which he said actor Halle Berry was his first crush during a "jungle fever" phase before he "figured out if it ain't white, it ain't right" - sparked a furore on social media, with the veteran forward forced to apologise for his racist comments.
Dumped as an ambassador for the Deadly Choices program run by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and pilloried in the press and the court of public opinion, Thaiday has paid dearly for his choice of words.
And he's willing to live with that.
"At the end of the day, I'm not going to change myself and that's the person I am," Thaiday said.
"I know who I am, I know where I come from and I just have to be a little bit more careful with the choices of words that I use.
"I'm trying to put those things behind me. I'll continue to help out my people as much as I can on a different level and that's all I can do."
But it was the blowback from the indigenous community and the comments aimed at his family that hurt the most.
"Some of the things that were said to me were very hurtful and to be honest, the hardest thing was probably on a personal level for my family, my wife, and when my children were brought into certain things and my mother and father," Thaiday said.
"That's probably the toughest part about it all.
"I'm big enough and ugly enough to handle myself and I know what this industry involves and what comes with the territory of being a professional football player but my family never signed up for those sorts of things."
Much of the commentary came from people that don't know Thaiday, a man incredibly proud of his indigenous heritage.
"That's what surprised me the most," he said.
"A lot of people didn't even watch the show or see what was said, they were just jumping on the coat tails of other people's comments.
While he will "live and learn", Thaiday's focus is far from the disruption of earlier this month, with a monster Blues pack occupying his thoughts ahead of tomorrow's Origin clash.
"It's a young, big, aggressive pack that are going to be ready to handle whatever the Queensland team are going to toss up to them," said Thaiday, who will add much-needed experience off the bench for the Maroons.
"Everyone knows that's where big games are won, through the middle of the field. It's going to be a fantastic challenge.
"I think what you get from experience is you know when to inject yourself into the game, you know when the moments are there to grasp and take.
"I may not be the young spring chicken I was in 2006 when I first debuted for Queensland but I've got a fair knowledge of the game now and it's an arena that I enjoy and really love playing in."