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Haskell issues three-minute video apology after social media storm

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Imagesges)

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Ex-England international James Haskell has published a three-minute video on Instagram to explain the social media storm he ignited when he told a women’s rugby player to have a day off. The Good, The Bad and The Rugby social media channels had posted about Steve Thompson, listing him as one the most-capped front-rowers for England.

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Bristol Bears player Simi Pam tweeted that ex-women’s star Rocky Clark should have been at the top of the list as she had won 137 caps for England, but Haskell replied that she should ‘have a day off’. It was a reply that was quickly deleted by that didn’t prevent his remark from taking on a life of its own and he has now addressed the controversy with a lengthy video response addressing claims that he has disrespected women’s rugby.  

Ex-England forward Haskell, who is currently touring the UK and Ireland with a live version of his The Good, The Bad and The Rugby show, said: “I feel I need to add some context to a situation that has been unfolding on social media yesterday [Sunday] and predominantly today [Monday]. 

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The Breakdown | Episode 13 | Sky Sport NZ
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The Breakdown | Episode 13 | Sky Sport NZ

“I wouldn’t normally do this, I wouldn’t dive back in and add fuel to the fire but I really feel like my silence has left a void which people are filling with untruths, character assassinations and some pretty aggressive comments about me and my integrity.

“So to explain what happened, on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby social media channels we posted a post about Steve Thompson and the amazing journey he is on. It was captioned England’s most capped front row players ever with a photo of Steve Thompson and Dylan Hartley. Now we should have put the most capped England men’s front row players of all time. 

“Without doing that we marginalised people like Rocky Clark and we caused offence and because of that, we were inundated with public comments. It was a genuine mistake that was quickly rectified. Obviously, within these comments, they weren’t always put in the most positive way. I’d walked off stage, was pretty pumped from doing a live show, full of adrenaline, find out we have walked into a bit of a media storm and I frankly didn’t get my reaction right.

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“I posted without thinking because I felt that as a company and as individuals we were being attacked. We try so hard to get things right and promote women’s rugby in the right way. A number of our staff are female rugby players and are always striving for us to do better and always make sure we push things in the right way.

“Alex (Payne), Mike (Tindall) and I set up and self-funded a podcast series, The Good, The Scaz and The Rugby, as a way to help promote the women’s game and to give the incredible personalities that play the women’s game the same level of exposure we do with Good, Bad, Rugby and the men’s game. 

“Now for me to tell a fellow player to have a day off was not respectful and made light of the cause they are fighting passionately for and it’s a cause that everybody at Good, Bad, Rugby –  and myself included – is 100 per cent aligned with. Now I deleted that comment after a couple of seconds but on social media people screenshot stuff and I replied with what I thought was a much more succinct comment.

“I feel like we are on the side of women’s rugby and by attacking us you trivialise your point and you polarise opinion – and that original post was on our Good, Bad, Rugby channels which are predominantly about men’s rugby and that had we made the mistake elsewhere I could understand the reaction. Now I stand by this point. 

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“However, I am aware that I have not faced any of the struggles that so many of the women’s game face, so passions do run high. Now I think we can all agree that there are better ways of handling these things. Now I truly didn’t intend to disrespect women’s rugby and in no way did my reply mean to cause offence.

“I’m a huge advocate, whether you believe it or not, of the women’s game and my track record backs that up. I loved every single second of being down at Welford Road most recently to watch the incredible Red Roses beat Ireland. They have an unbelievable fan base that I want to be a part of and I will continue to be a voice for change and equality in our sport whether anybody wants it or not. Now you will be glad to know I am going to have a day off.” 

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