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'Any abusive comments are plainly unacceptable': The worrying social media warning contained in the Mike Brown red card written judgment

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Harlequins have issued a statement confirming they have now received the full written judgement into the disciplinary hearing that resulted in Mike Brown receiving a six-match ban, a suspension that means he will not play for the club again prior to his move to Newcastle on a two-year deal.

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Brown was banned for stamping on Wasps’ Tommy Taylor last weekend, foul play that led to his sending off for Harlequins by referee Wayne Barnes at The Stoop. “The club can confirm it is now in receipt of the full written judgment following full-back Mike Brown’s sending off vs Wasps on May 9 and subsequent suspension,” read the statement. 

The club and player will now carefully consider their position. Harlequins continue to support Mike, who has been part of our family for 17 years, as a player and person. The club will make no further comment at this time.”

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An eleven-page judgment posted on the disciplinary section of the RFU website has now outlined what actually happened at the hearing, including how Brown presented character reference letters from the likes of Harlequins assistant Nick Evans, his former club boss John Kingston and his old England coach Stuart Lancaster. 

A postscript at the end of the document from panel chairman Matthew Weaver also hit out at the social media commentary that surrounded last weekend’s incident. Weaver wrote: “As is clear from the decision above, the panel were unanimous that this was not a deliberate stamp by the player. 

“This decision was reached after a detailed review of video footage (from a number of angles and at various speeds, including frame by frame) and hearing from the player directly at length. The player was clearly remorseful and conducted himself throughout the process in a manner that does him much credit. 

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“Whilst the panel understands that every rugby supporter is entitled to voice their own views on incidents within matches via social media, it is hoped that this decision provides sufficient information for any views expressed on this incident (and indeed on the player) to be informed and based primarily on the facts of the incident. 

“Any abusive comments aimed at the player (whether generally or as a result of this incident) are plainly unacceptable, inconsistent with the values and core principles of rugby and condemned by the panel.”

Earlier in the written judgment, the evidence presented by Brown at the hearing outlined what in his opinion had happened when he tangled with Taylor when Harlequins were defending their line. “The player talked the panel through the incident by reference to the video footage, taken frame by frame. He explained that he was 35 years old and had been a professional rugby player since he was 18, spending his entire career to date at Harlequins. 

“He has played 351 games for Harlequins and won 72 caps for England. He described his approach to the game as hard, tough and physical but never overstepping the mark and always being respectful to opponents.

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“He was clear that this was not a deliberate act and that the thought of stamping on another player’s head had never entered his mind, whether on this occasion or throughout his career. The player explained that he knew Taylor from England camps and got on well with him. There was absolutely no bad feeling between the two men.

“The player described what he was trying to do during the incident. He explained that he was trying to return to the game as quickly as possible, something that his club constantly encourages and expects, particularly given that his team were defending their own try line at the time. He attempted to avoid falling to the ground to maximise the chances of him returning to the game as quickly as possible. 

“He was being held by Taylor on his upper body and on his left leg. As he tried to go back into the game, he became unbalanced and when he placed his right leg on the ground, he felt immediately that he had made contact with something other than the ground (namely, Taylor’s head/face) and attempted to remove all weight and force from his right leg by hopping. 

“This action caused him to fall onto the ground but was intended to avoid putting any force through his right leg. The player denied that Taylor’s actions had caused him to become frustrated and to lash out in any way.

“When asked about the unnatural looking placement to his right leg (i.e. towards Taylor rather than to the player’s right) the player explained that as he was unbalanced, he was simply attempting to correct his balance and stop himself leaning (and possibly falling) to the left. He maintained that he was focused on the game and not on Taylor and that as soon as he was aware of making contact with Taylor, he attempted to take all weight or force out of his right leg.

“The player confirmed that when he got to his feet, he turned around to check how Taylor was and did not return to the game until a physio attended Taylor on the pitch. After receiving the red card, the player felt that it was important to speak to Taylor and apologise for what was an accident in his view.”

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'Any abusive comments are plainly unacceptable': The worrying social media warning contained in the Mike Brown red card written judgment

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