The concerns about the effects of repeated blows to the head in rugby union were once again brought to the fore following the comments by England player James Haskell about Danny Cipriani’s drunken brawling in a Jersey night club and cricketer Ben Stokes’s drunken brawling outside a Bristol night club. “It’s a case of trial by social media and the problem of that is that everyone is ill-informed and knows nothing,” said Haskell, who has taken numerous blows to the head throughout his career.
Whilst Stokes was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court, it is not disputed that he rendered two other defendants, who were also found not guilty of affray, unconscious. He did so by punching their lights out. By contrast, Cipriani was found guilty. The reaction of the suits who control both sports? Business as usual, chaps.
The behaviour of both Stokes and Cipriani was hardly that of role models, unless you are of the view that having too much to drink and then fighting sets a good example to others. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think either of them behaved as I would like my children to behave.
Can you imagine the press outcry if these men were footballers? They’d have been crucified by the media and doubtless dissed by many of the snobs who populate the cricket and rugby union world, a kind of class-based reaction. “Bloody working class riff-raff. You don’t get chaps from our summer game or rugger showing such poor form. Football, eh?”
The rush to restore both men into their respective teams stuck in the throat, too. Yes, Stokes was not guilty of affray, but surely there are questions remaining about why a top international sportsman should be out on the lash in the early hours and the finding himself in a fracas. Cipriani, we know, has form.
It’s not the fault of ‘social media’: it’s the fault of the individuals concerned and the cultures in which they perform. Haskell is engaging in whataboutery.