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Courtney Lawes: 'We can disagree without hating each other'

By Ian Cameron
Courtney Lawes poses during the Northampton Saints media session held at the cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens on November 28, 2023 in Northampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Former England forward Courtney Lawes has revisited the social media drama that engulfed him in the summer of 2020 following a Tweet that saw him become the target of an angry online mob.

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Lawes – who recently retired from international rugby after a stellar career for England – was the subject of a social media pile-on over the controversy, which even saw him lose a sponsor and others call for him to be sacked.

Lawes replied to a Tweet from then Manchester Utd footballer Marcus Rashford in June 2020, who had successfully campaigned for food vouchers for poverty-stricken children in the UK. Lawes suggested in a since-deleted Tweet that financial stability and a preference for marriage could potentially help remedy the problem, writing: ‘Great win mate, you’ve done a [sic] incredible thing for a lot of young people! Maybe now would be a good time to bring some attention to the importance of being financially secure and preferably married before having kids?”

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Lawes’ seemingly innocent Tweet was pilloried by some users, who demanded that he be fired from his job; some even suggesting that he shouldn’t be allowed around children.

Speaking on the Crisis What Crisis podcast with Andy Coulson, Lawes addressed the drama and what he learned from the episode.

“It’s [the Tweet] something, again, that kind of made sense to me from my experience and also looking at the data, that people, or children growing up with married parents do much better in life. And therefore hopefully won’t need food stamps and whatever else to kind of get through life,” said Lawes. “So you know, we can help the people who are in the situation whilst trying to help people stop people from getting in the situation in the first place.

“It was quite eye-opening in a lot of ways. I found it so ironic that there’s people that feel like they stand on this pedestal because they support a certain view or they think a certain way, and they think they are very good people because of this opinion. But they will try and get you fired.

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“You know, I’ve got four kids, I’ve got a family to look after and I’m the main breadwinner. Yet they’ll try and destroy that, bring that down, just because I’ve said something that they don’t like.

“I found that really eye-opening. And they think they are good people for doing that. Better people. Better people for doing that. So I think that these kinds of people need to actually have a think about why that is, and why they feel that way so strongly that they should try to destroy somebody’s life just because they’ve said something that they don’t like.

Lawes England Northampton
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“We’re never going to agree on everything as a society, as people, but you know, we can disagree without hating each other. Better yet, we can find common ground. So yes, that’s the massive thing for me; we haven’t got to be enemies.”

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Lawes lost a sponsor over the controversy who decided they didn’t want to renew his contract – not wanting ‘that kind of heat’ – but Northampton Saints stood firmly behind their man in the face of the calls for him to lose his job.

“But no, Saints were great. A guy called Tim Percival was on comms and yes, he was the one picking up the emails and whatnot, and saying, “He’s entitled to his opinion.” Because you know, we had a few strongly worded emails saying that I should lose my job and shouldn’t be allowed around children, apparently.

“But on the flipside of that I got inundated with positive messages as well. A lot of handwritten letters and stuff like that, and emails and things like that supporting me as well. So you know, there’s a negative side of it but there’s also people out there that obviously feel the same.”

Lawes – who is of mixed race background – would also cop flack for refusing to take a knee on the pitch in solidarity during the BLM protests of that summer.

Lawes England Rugby World Cup
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

“I don’t know, for whatever reason I’d been quite aware of the kind of Black Lives Matter organisation or whatever it is, and what they stood for. I’d seen their website, and the kind of things they are pushing is certainly not a stable family, it’s quite the opposite.

“So yes, I knew that taking the knee was promoting, even if you didn’t want to, promoting the Black Lives Matter organisation. And when people see that and they want to make a change, and obviously generously give their hard-earned money, they will go to that organisation and give that money to them. And we’ve seen now what that money has gone towards, and it certainly wasn’t what everybody thought was what they were going to put it towards.”

Courtney Lawes had shared his opinion on the matter with teammates in the Saints set-up and believed that individual choice on the matter was key.

“I guess fortunately I had prior knowledge of them and what they’re about as an organisation, and yes, in terms of values it was the complete opposite [to his own].”

Despite knowing the flack he would face, Lawes refused to buckle to outside pressure, although initially, it was unclear as to what approach the Gallagher Premiership club would take on the matter.

“I’m always going to stand by what I think. Actually, we wanted to be unified as a club, so we wanted either everybody to take the knee or kind of nobody. And the only way you could really do that is to tell people, but I was quite adamant that we make this the decision for people to make, not, “You have to stand up,” or, “You have to take the knee.” Because if they were to say to me, “You have to kneel down before the game,” I would have said no. And I think that if somebody absolutely wanted to kneel before the game, that they should be allowed to. But they should have all the information first.

“So yes, that’s just how we went about it.”

You can listen to the full Crisis What Crisis podcast HERE.

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Comments

2 Comments
N
Neil 147 days ago

Nice rebuttal to the thought police. Courtney Lawes sounds like someone who considers things deeply and analyses them on their merits, rather than just following the herd. Fair play!

A
Ace 148 days ago

Respect, Courtney Lawes. It is refreshing to hear such a rational and reasonable voice in a world that is growing increasingly more polarised, more interested in cancelling than in dialogue.

I hope that your words will get the publicity and attention that they deserve.

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