'Young sportsmen must understand social media opinions can be taken as statements of fact'
Rob Baxter has admitted he has reminded his league-leading Exeter players about their social media use following the controversy stroked in Australia by Israel Folau.
The Chiefs are currently leading the Gallagher Premiership, seeking out a second title to add to the crown won in 2017. And their director of rugby has moved to ensure their title chase won’t be affected by any unwitting slip-up by any of his squad on a social media platform.
“We have reminded the players about that,” said Baxter to BBC Sport in the wake of the storm generated by Folau’s hell awaits gay people social media post which had a fall-out in England as Saracens’ Billy Vunipola was reprimanded by the RFU after defending the Australian’s controversial post. Vunipola was then confronted on the Ricoh Arena pitch by a Munster fan at last Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final.
“If you make a statement on social media, you’re effectively making a statement just like I’m making one today to members of the press,” explained Baxter ahead of the Chiefs weekend league match against Harlequins.
“It’s all very well claiming it’s your own opinion and the value you have of your own opinion and how much right you have to give your own opinion, but actually if you put it out there publicly you’re making a statement about yourself.
Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter says he has advised his players about their responsibilities on social media in the wake of the Israel Folau affair.
— BBC Rugby Union (@bbcrugbyunion) April 24, 2019
“The world is a different place now and we need to make sure that young sportsmen in particular just have an understanding that their opinions can be taken as statements of fact if they want to express them in that way.
“Most people don’t say things deliberately in a bad context, but it’s a reminder that they are important and influential people, and if you are an important and influential person you’ve got a responsibility about the things that you say.”
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