Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes says he believes those in the ‘middle’ need to find their voice in order to combat the increasingly divisive agendas being pushed on either side of the political aisle.

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Lawes hasn’t built a career in rugby by avoiding on-field collisions and has increasingly taken the same, unflinching approach to his social media accounts. The England second row, in rugby union circles at least, has become an outspoken champion of freedom of speech and hasn’t been afraid to voice opinions that haven’t always sat well with those on Twitter’s sizable left.

His views on marriage, parenting and race have undeniably made him a target online, where some of those that oppose his views have even attempted to incite sponsors to drop him. He’s refused to be cowed, despite numerous run-ins with what some have come to refer to as ‘woke Twitter’.

What’s more, Lawes says it’s the erosion of personal freedoms – especially relating to speech – that has kindled his interest in politics and says he has made it his business to inform himself on any subject he addresses.

“I’m educated on certain things. I’ll go out of my way to know the facts first and try to make a logical conclusion from them,” Lawes told Jim Hamilton on the RugbyPass’ Lockdown podcast.  “The reason I got into my politics is that I feel like our freedoms are slowly being taken away from us. Your human rights and freedoms – freedom of speech probably being the most important one.

“So your freedom to express your own opinions, to counter other opinions. It’s very important.

“But we both know, both of us sitting here, and those listening in, that there are certain subjects that they now can’t talk about and can’t express their opinion on, unless their opinion is a certain thing, is coming from a certain place, is coming from a certain side of the argument. That is an infringement on someone’s freedom.

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“Everybody, regardless of what they look like or where they come from, should be able to express their opinion. That’s a basic human right, in my opinion.”

Saints’ low-key, unified response to Black Lives Matter (BLM) on rugby’s restart weekend, was very much by design according to Lawes.

“Knowing politics and what it is at the minute, it’s become very divisive – and we [Northampton Saints] didn’t want that.

“I could see it coming a mile off. What kneeling and what Black Lives Matter represent is different to different people. Some people see it as one thing and other people see it as another. That’s not to say anyone is in the wrong or right, it’s maybe just how deep you’ve looked into the situation possibly?

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“And whether you can differentiate between saying black lives matter, which of course they do, and the kind of organization, movement, which in my opinion, is something a bit different.

“It’s a very difficult subject for anybody nowadays. The reason I didn’t want it coming into rugby is because it doesn’t matter what side of the argument you stand on, you’re going to get backlash regardless because it just incredibly divisive, and that’s why we as a club went about it in a different direction.

“There’s a bigger picture going on in America and we’re just having some spillover in Britain, that’s what you’re seeing here. Basically a watered-down version of what is happening in America.

“It’s on people to go out and have a look at the organisation and what’s on the website, and have a look at what’s going on in America.

“I don’t want to go too far into it. People have to realise why some people are not on board with it and not just call them racist because they don’t want to get behind it.

“Go and talk to them. Ask them why it is they don’t get behind and if it is because they don’t think our lives matter, then maybe you’re right about them, but if they say it represents this, maybe have a think about it, go and have a look yourself.

“That’s the crux of it. We’re in an age where people in the middle are going to have to start speaking up, because the fringes are starting to take over, so people need to find their voice.

“I’m a mixed-race bloke who grew up in not a lot of money. I had good parents and they gave me good values. I was able to do well. I haven’t flippin’ completed life.

“I’m going to have to go back to work when I’m finished [with rugby]. I’ve picked rugby, and rugby’s not the best-paying sport on the world. It’s my choice so I stand by my decisions and I’ll be accountable for those decisions.

“It’s not like I’ve made it, made it, but I’ve done alright for myself. For me, most people can be successful. In terms of what success means to me, it is putting your children in a better place than you started. Giving them better opportunities than you had. My dad is still not worth that much in terms of wealth, but he’s very successful to me. He came at 12 years old with nothing at all, and he managed to give me a life and give me opportunities in life, to myself where I am today. That’s what we can all do.”

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