FORMER Knights player and indigenous consultant with the club, Ashley Gordon says racism exists in rugby league at junior and senior levels of the sport.
"It still exists," he said. "Not as strongly as when I was young and playing but it still exists."
His claim comes after NSW Origin winger Timana Tahu walked out on the squad after a comment by Andrew Johns and The Herald revealed claims a 13-year-old Wests Newcastle player had been racially vilified.
Australian Rugby League chief executive Geoff Carr said he encouraged the player, Talanoa Taufaao, to make a formal complaint with the Newcastle Rugby League so that those responsible were punished.
"We certainly don't condone that if it has happened," he said "We have zero tolerance in this area."
Mr Gordon said the answer to the issue was greater education of players and spectators, not only on the importance of acceptance of other cultures but to spread awareness of the damage racial slurs can do.
He said the reported comment from Johns, a long-time friend, was probably due to ignorance of its impact.
"I know Joey and he is not racist," he said. "The main thing is that he is remorseful and is aware that what he said has caused damage."
Mr Gordon said racial slurs against any player was unacceptable but to level them at a junior player was ridiculous.
"Trying to put a kid off by sledging him from the sideline is a bit stupid anyway," he said.
The former Knights fullback said education on cultural difference and the damage of racial vilification needed to be more widespread. He also called for less tokenism.
"You can't just have an indigenous round and that's it," he said. "There has to be more substance to it."
Country Rugby League Newcastle regional manager Jamie O'Connor said no complaint had been received by the league regarding the alleged incidents of vilification.
"If it has been happening for as long as they say I am a bit disappointed the club has not made a complaint," he said.