A TikTok video featuring Panthers star Jarome Luai is under investigation by the NRL Integrity Unit after it was revealed the clip referenced lyrics by notorious hip-hop group OneFour.
Luai, 25, grew up in Mt Druitt in western Sydney and has always said he’s proud of his roots.
While the date of the since-deleted TikTok video is unknown, the fact that Luai glorified OneFour – who specialize in “drill” rap – caught the NRL’s attention.
The drill-rap artists — a genre steeped in themes of violence, killing and death — made headlines in 2019 after their nationwide tour was halted by police over security concerns.
The controversial style of music has come under fire around the world, with authorities in the US and UK calling for a ban amid fears the street-inspired music incites violence.
While Sydney’s postcode gang war is making headlines in the west, the NRL Integrity Unit’s investigation into Luai’s behavior is an unwelcome distraction for the Panthers, who face either the Sharks or the Rabbitohs in an interim final on September 24.
Just last month, Luai helped spread anti-violence messages to children in NSW.
He was among sporting “influencers and ambassadors” who were urged by NSW Police to appear in a video to be shown to children in classrooms and in detention alike.
“I had a bunch of guys around me (growing up) kind of in and in the midst of the violence, but they were very talented kids, maybe if I had said something I could have made that difference,” says Luai.
Panthers and NSW Origin teammate Brian To’o is another ambassador. The pair are known for blasting OneFour’s music on team buses.
In April, Uati Faletolu was stabbed to death at the Sydney Easter Show in an attack that could be linked to a ‘postcode war’ between neighboring Doonside and Mount Druitt groups.
Faletolu’s senseless death immediately caused tension, and there were fears that a revenge attack was imminent.
In May, NSW Police canceled a local rugby league match between Londonderry and St Pats in western Sydney after being informed that gang violence was likely to ensue.
Penrith Panthers Juniors then released a statement alerting players and fans to the possibility that police could erase more games in the near future.
“Please note: NSW Police will be canceling games statewide where the safety of everyone involved is at risk,” read the letter from Panthers Juniors general manager Nathan Mairleitner.
“Detective Chief Inspector Newman from our local command and Crime Managers across West Sydney are conducting general inquiries and will be reaching out to sports clubs directly to identify players making threats and/or planning to incite violence on our fields. This includes correspondence about players joined by spectators armed with guns.’
The statement informed players and fans that they must tell police if they are aware of threats of violence or intimidation in relation to matches.
Mairleitner warned “all players, coaches, parents and spectators” that they will be banned from playing with teams if they are involved in “organizing acts of violence on or off the pitch”.
Faletolu’s death prompted Manly Sea Eagles star Josh Aloiai to send a powerful message urging people to end gang conflicts.
“Islanders attack and kill other islanders on the road. Often children. Our own people! Where did we lose our identity?’ asked Aloiai on Instagram.
“Most of our elderly have moved from the islands to places like New Zealand and Australia in search of a better life.
“It’s one thing to be proud of where you come from, because it’s part of your history. It’s a whole different thing to fight for your zip code and your neighborhood. You don’t care about your zip code or your district! Fight to be an example to your brothers and sisters!’