Little sign of respect on which rugby prides itself in recent social media incidents

Rugby World Comment

Ellis Genge death threats: No place for online abuse

It has been an inglorious 48 hours for rugby on Twitter.

First, BBC pitchside reporter Sonja McLaughlan suffered online abuse after conducting post-match interviews with the coaches and captains of England and Wales on Saturday.

Then England prop Ellis Genge revealed that he had received death threats on social media after a video circulated of him not clapping during the post-match tunnel following England’s Six Nations defeat by Wales.

That’s before you consider the vitriol aimed at referee Pascal Gauzere and other officials over the weekend. Rugby is full of grey areas, with many of its laws open to different interpretations, so decisions are often going to cause debate but plenty of comments crossed the line from criticism to abuse.

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It’s not the first time it’s happened during this championship either. On the opening weekend, for example, Billy Burns was subjected to abuse on social media following his error at the end of Ireland’s loss to Wales.

Respect. It’s held up as one of rugby’s core values but it’s been sorely lacking on social media recently. The abuse of Genge for a perceived lack of respect is not only ironic but moronic – how are those trolling him showing respect? Why are people off the pitch not held to the same account as those on it?

Yes, people are entitled to opinions and there are plenty of contrasting ones in rugby. Yes, those involved in professional sport can expect their performances to be critiqued and analysed. But there is no excuse for personal abuse.

It’s a year since ‘Be kind’ started trending on social media but that message seems to have long been forgotten, particularly by those who choose to @ people directly.

Scarlets team manager Sara Davies recently penned a very pertinent column about the comments players receive on social media.

She wrote: “Imagine you are in work, you are sitting down at your desk and a person who you don’t know comes to sit next to you and even though you know they don’t do the same job as you, they sit there and criticise everything that you do.”

If everyone followed her ‘THINK’ motto for posting, social media would be a more positive place.

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