Australian rugby union star, Samoan international Spencer Leniu apologized on Thursday after he admitted to having uttered a racist insult towards an opponent during a championship match played in the United States.

The Australian fullback of the Brisbane Broncos, Ezra Mam, of Aboriginal origin in particular, claimed that the center of the Sydney Roosters had made this remark – calling him a “monkey” according to several sources – during the opening match of the season last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I would like to apologize to Ezra and his family for using the word I did and I am sincerely sorry for causing him such distress,” Leniu said in a statement released by his club.

“I want to take responsibility for what happened. I said the word but I didn’t do it in a racist way. Anyone who knows me knows that’s not who I am,” the 23-year-old added.

Leniu has been charged with inappropriate conduct by the National Rugby League (NRL) and faces a lengthy suspension after pleading guilty.

There have already been cases of racist incidents in the Australian Rugby League Championship, mainly from spectators.

The Roosters assured that they “do not tolerate any form of racism” and offered their “deepest apologies to Ezra, his family and the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community”.

Mam reported the comment during the match – part of an NRL doubleheader to kick off the championship season in Las Vegas – to referee Adam Gee, who recorded the remark made by Leniu in his report.

“The Broncos acknowledge Spencer’s apology to Ezra and the importance of taking this step. There is no place for racism in our game or in our society,” responded the Brisbane club.