It’s been a difficult week for some rugby fans following the forced international sabbatical of England captain, Owen Farrell. Many have had to search inside themselves to consider whether their online comments have been hateful enough to cause one of the England greats to step away from the international spotlight.
Even now, comment sections of social media posts can be found littered with negative and trolling behaviours from certain ‘fans’. Whilst this comes from a minority of commenters, we all have to remember that these sportspeople are still people. They read the same comments that the rest of us do, which will affect them the same way as it would us.
On this, a man who’s taken his own flak in the past, James Haskell, has had his say on the situation. Sharing a message to social media, the former Wasps player spoke fondly about his former teammate:
“If you ever want to know the mark of a man, always look at what his teammates and his coaches think of him. Everybody unanimously loves Owen and he’s the first person on anyone’s team sheet and I think that is more important than what social media says”.
Haskell goes on to talk about the level of bravery it has taken the England captain to step away in the interests of his family: “Would I have had the guts to step away from a game I love? My country which is all I’ve ever wanted to do and have always played my heart out for? No I wouldn’t have. I would have struggled on, and I think the bravery of him to be able to do that and to to put his hand up go ‘look this isn’t right I’m not right I want a minute’, is again just testament to what this incredible bloke is.”
The former 77-cap international also pointed out that Farrell hasn’t been alone in the targeted abuse on social media, eluding to the issues that the officials have had to face off the field in recent times: “I think it’s a very sad indictment that people lost their way so badly social media that the first reactions to attack and criticise. During this World Cup it was particularly toxic as referees like Wayne Barnes stepped away from the game, we’ve got linesmen getting letters written to their children’s schools, we’ve got our greatest ever point scorer and one of the best leaders this country has seen, one of the best players this country has seen having to step away cause he’s been bullied.”
Finally, Haskell had a bit of advice for anyone considering issuing hateful speech towards players or officials: “Just think before you tweet, before you post, before you criticize somebody because you never know what’s going on, and I think more players are gonna follow this if we don’t we don’t change our ways, it’s very sad.”
Just my view on the awesome @owenfaz pic.twitter.com/WTID4FVaYa
— James Haskell (@jameshaskell) November 30, 2023
On a lighter note, who remembers this classic from the past?