Courtney Lawes: Players who racially abused Luther Burrell should be named and shamed

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Courtney Lawes: Players who racially abused Luther Burrell should be named and shamed - SHUTTERSTOCK
Courtney Lawes: Players who racially abused Luther Burrell should be named and shamed - SHUTTERSTOCK

England captain Courtney Lawes has called for the players who racially abused former team-mate Luther Burrell to be named and shamed.

In an interview last weekend, Burrell, who played for Leeds, Sale, Northampton and Newcastle as well as Warrington in rugby league, claimed racism was “rife” within rugby and detailed the comments he received during his career about bananas, fried chicken and slavery.

Lawes, England’s first black male captain since Jason Robinson in 2006, says that he was “shocked” by Burrell’s experience and has called for the perpetrators to be rooted out of the game.

“I read the article and I was shocked about the stuff that’s been said to Luther because at most clubs – knowing the boys from different clubs who come into the England camp – it just wouldn’t be accepted, that kind of stuff,” Lawes said. “It’s not even a joke, that kind of stuff. It’s way beyond that.

“I’m feeling for him and I’m not sure what’s going on up there, but it’s absolutely not acceptable. I’m with (Ellis) Gengey – I think the person or people who are doing that need to be outed, because it’s just not acceptable in our game, at this point in time.”

Luther Burrell has played for Leeds, Sale, Northampton and Newcastle as well as Warrington in rugby league - PA
Luther Burrell has played for Leeds, Sale, Northampton and Newcastle as well as Warrington in rugby league - PA

Lawes played with Burrell for seven years at Northampton and is yet to contact him despite composing a message. In his own career, Lawes has only had a couple of fleeting experiences of racism and believes the issue of class is a potentially bigger problem within rugby. Yet the 33-year-old says it is up to the players themselves to stamp out any signs of racism.

“Maybe I’m fortunate, I’ve only been at Saints and the only time I’ve ever experienced racism there was when I was 16 there, coming through the academy,” Lawes said. “Since then, honestly, it’s just not even thought about at the club. I had a problem with him (Burrell) saying that racism is rife in rugby. If I’m honest, that’s not been my experience. But if that kind of stuff is going on in certain clubs, it needs to be addressed.’

“We don’t want things like that going on in the game. That’s why I was surprised that at any club, any colour of player would accept that kind of behaviour. From my experience at Saints, it wouldn’t take me or Luds (Lewis Ludlam) or anyone like that to pull it up – it would be pulled up by the team, or whoever heard it at the time.

“It’s disappointing, but what’s good is that, from my experience, I haven’t heard of many players going through that. It’s not happening everywhere, which is a good thing.

‘We need to squash this. We need to find out what is happening and if it’s happening at any other clubs. We need to get it sorted.”

Lawes will lead England in the three-Test series against Australia where they will now be competing for the Ella-Mobbs Cup. This was named after English war hero Edgar Mobbs and former Australia fly half Mark Ella, replacing the Cook Cup, which was inspired by British explorer Captain James Cook.

As Aboriginals, Ella and his brothers received lots of racist abuse while playing for Randwick, Eddie Jones’ old club in the 1970s and 1980s, and says that changing the name of the trophy is a step in the right direction.

Mark Ella (centre) shakes hands with England Captain Courtney Lawes (right) ahead of the opening Test of the three-match series between Australia and England - AFP
Mark Ella (centre) shakes hands with England Captain Courtney Lawes (right) ahead of the opening Test of the three-match series between Australia and England - AFP

“In the early days there (Randwick) was a bit of a novelty,” Ella said. “We’d play and be called ‘black this, black that’ from all of our opposition. There are not a lot of Aboriginals to have played for Australia, but hopefully this trophy will be the start of the end of that.

“In Australian Indigenous communities this trophy means a lot. It also means a lot when the Wallabies wear the Indigenous jersey because it shows we’ve come a long way in supporting the Indigenous as players and acknowledge their presence.”

Lawes also revealed that he was surprised to be selected as captain ahead of Owen Farrell who is starting his first England match of the year. He readily admits that he is “polar opposite” to Farrell in leadership style but believes head coach Eddie Jones appreciates how he is willing to challenge him.

“If I'm honest, I'm probably skipper because I think more differently to him (Jones) and I'm willing to challenge him as a leader,” Lawes said. “I think that's why he's kept me on. I've made a lot of the lads comfortable around the team and that's the team environment we want.”

Asked to provide an example of challenging Jones, Lawes said: “In terms of what's best for the team training wise, what we need for the week. I'm more than willing to essentially get a feel of what the team needs and then the coaches will have a feeling for what the team needs and then we'll come to a compromise from there, instead of it all being one way in terms of we just do what the coaches say.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting