It was the first game of the Six Nations played yesterday at an empty Twickenham between Scotland and England and a disappointing start if this is going to be how it proceeds. Could someone please explain to me why only four players from the Scotland rugby team kneeled to show their support for Rugby Against Racism and the Black Lives Matter movement? I thought this was a human rights issue and a universally agreed solidarity for the cause and whilst I fully understand an individual’s right to not be forced into a collective statement, I simply don’t get why any of them would have an issue with it? Why wouldn’t they want to be part of a basic anti-racism gesture and show that they believe in people being treated fairly? Why wouldn’t rugby in general take the opportunity to show the world that they are fully behind the cause?
I understand that seven England players also stayed standing, including Billy Vinipola who has explained previously that it’s for religious reasons, but the majority of the English team knelt. Should all the standing players release statements explaining why they chose not to participate in order to avoid us having to reach our own conclusions? Conclusions like perhaps it’s because rugby is still an elitist sport only afforded by the affluent private schools to the few. Or because most of the Scottish players probably didn’t grow up alongside black classmates and therefore don’t see it as an issue that concerns them. Do they not understand the global message they have just sent out? If footballers have managed to successfully embrace the cause, why can the rugby players do the same?
Surely it should be an all or nothing commitment from the team and rugby in general? There’s a huge dearth of black players in UK rugby and so, to me, what they did yesterday sent out all the wrong messages and was shameful.