Details of an altercation between Dan Biggar and a supporter during Northampton Saints’ loss to Gloucester over the weekend have emerged.
Biggar was shows a red card for a high tackle about his Lions teammate Chris Harris during the game at Kingsholm, which the Saints lost 31-21, getting eliminated from the Challenge Cup in the process. In the 54th minute of the game, Biggar blundered when he came in as the second tackler and caught Harris on the chin with his shoulder. There was little discussion of the card, and Biggar is now ready to meet their fate at a disciplinary hearing.
But then it appears the Wales captain was abused by a member of the crowd as he made his way towards the sidelines and took a stand for the rest of the match. Biggar reportedly couldn’t ignore it and exchanged words before the stewards intervened.
These details have been posted on a blog run by Ashley Tuala, the wife of Biggar’s Northampton teammate Ahsee. The publication is titled ‘Would you say it to his face?’ and uses the Biggar incident as an example of the stick professional rugby players pick up on a weekly basis.
Ms Tuala wrote: “A Northampton Saints player had been given a red card for a tackle he had made during the game. As he was walking off the pitch one particular person in the crowd was literally shouting a bunch of abusive words directly at him. “. .
“The player bit back and returned some words. Now here’s the fun but sticky part. The person in the crowd yelled at him because the player was saying things back to him. That he wasn’t being professional and he shouldn’t be.” answering things because he is who he is.
“The stewards were then seen trying to defuse the situation. The player was then heard saying: ‘I am not going to sit here and allow someone to verbally abuse me.’
“I should mention that people in the crowd were also heard throughout the game being verbally abusive and saying pretty nasty things not only towards the players but also towards staff members like: ‘You’re fat’ and also using the nasty word: ‘You’ re af****t’. I am in no way blaming this verbal abuse on the home fans of a particular team, it is just a mere example of the type of abuse that can be heard during a game.”
In recent years, the discourse around the mental health of professional athletes has moved at a pace that seems to increase the level of abuse they receive for their performances. This is most likely related to the growing popularity of social networking sites, which give fans direct access to sports stars. This can sometimes be a positive thing, but very often it can be the opposite.
During last year’s Six Nations, the Welsh Rugby Union publicly condemned those who had used social media to abuse Liam Williams after following Taulupe Faletau to the sin bin in the closing stages of the Six Nations final against France. In the final minutes, Wales saw a Grand Slam slip from their hands and a torrent of abuse flowed towards Williams.
The WRU posted some of the messages on its own social media profile to draw attention to the reality athletes can sometimes face. Alongside this, the Union added: “The players are proud to represent their country and their jersey. The abuse that the players are receiving has to stop. This is a small example of the abuse that only one player received last night.”
“To help drive the call for change, gamers want to highlight the amount of abuse and bile circulating on social media platforms. We value our fans’ support on this matter.”
On her blog, Ashley Tuala continued, “There’s been a lot of emphasis today on mental health and how important it is for people to be mindful of others and how we treat others. But I feel like when it comes to those in public view, those senses go out the window.
“I will always refer to athletes in particular rugby players because I can only speak openly and honestly about something that I see, experience and talk about with those in the industry and as the wife of a professional rugby player.”
Biggar will face a disciplinary hearing for his red card on Wednesday, April 20.