We should be better than this. In 2019 - almost the third decade of the 21st century - a public figure using an American Civil War pro-slavery expression at an annual general meeting should appall us. The fact it was uttered at an AGM for the junior division of the Group Seven competition, which has a large and proud representation of Indigenous players, makes it even worse.
Group Seven's operations manager Peter Mehl's used the expression "N---er in the woodpile". He said it was an off the cuff remark.
If it was off the cuff, as Mehl claims, that only makes it worse.
Casual racism is a slow drip of putdowns, slurs and slights that erodes the confidence and self-esteem of those on the receiving end. It's the normalisation of toxic attitudes that have no place in our community. It belittles and marginalises.
This might not be the intent of those who traffick in casual racism but the harm lies in how the comments are received and in this case, it's abundantly clear the comment did not go down well. One person stormed out of the meeting and an official complaint was made.
Mehl has apologised for the remark, saying it was not his intention to offend, which is welcome. Also good is the fact the controversy will prompt a new conversation about casual racism.
This is important because it is so easy, yet so harmful to slide back into bad old habits that come with the same old downplaying: "I wasn't meaning to sound racist", "It was said in jest", "I meant no harm".
Here's what the Human Rights Commission has to say on the subject:
"Like other forms of racism, casual racism can marginalise, denigrate or humiliate those who experience it. Harm can occur even if conduct isn't motivated by hate or malice.
"Research demonstrates that racism can have adverse effects on people's physical and mental health. It can cause anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and high blood pressure."
Sport, and rugby league is no different, requires fitness and focus. Success is as much about psychological as well as physical strength. Racism erodes both. Someone in an important executive position ought to know this.
Mehl has sought forgiveness and undertaken not to use such offensive language in future. He'll be held to his word.