Rugby Canada fires coach for making ‘inappropriate’ comments about the women’s 7s team at the Tokyo Olympics.
‘This is the situation we have been in for months,’ writes rugby veteran Charity Williams.
Rugby Canada fired the head of its national development program Friday following a review of “recent social media postings that were deemed unacceptable and in violation of organization policy.”
Charity Williams, a veteran of rugby sevens, shared a screengrab of several tweets from Jamie Cudmore’s account, a former Canadian men’s team player who served as Rugby Canada’s head of national development following the women’s team’s quarter-final exit from the Tokyo Olympics.
One of Cudmore’s since-deleted tweets read: “Karma is a scumbag! #Survivorsmyass.” The tweet appeared to be in response to a complaint lodged with Rugby Canada earlier this year by members of the women’s team regarding bullying and harassment.
Rugby Canada confirmed the tweet originated with Cudmore.
“We are treating this matter extremely seriously and have determined that immediate action is necessary,” Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in a statement. Cudmore was also relieved of his duties as men’s 15s team coach.
“Rugby Canada’s core values, including integrity and respect, must be reflected in all of our rugby programs, and we are committed to promoting a healthy, inclusive culture now and in the future,” said Sally Dennis, chair of Rugby Canada’s board of directors.
Williams began her post by expressing her pride in her team, regardless of the outcome on the field.
“What we accomplished this year encompasses much more than a single weekend,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Rather than that, I’m forced to sit here and share what we’ve been through as a team. The consistent hostility directed at us by members of our own organization, “Williams composed. “I’m only sharing this because this is the situation we’ve been in for months.” The bullying and harassment we have faced as a result of speaking out is outrageous and frightening at times. This is why we requested an internal investigation: we have not been safe.”
While the conduct described in the complaint filed by 37 current and former team members reflected the athletes’ experiences, it did not meet Rugby Canada’s definition of harassment or bullying.
John Tait, the head coach, subsequently resigned, claiming he had committed no wrongdoing.
In an April 28 statement, the players stated that their complaint “explained the psychological abuse, harassment, and/or bullying these athletes believe they endured in the centralized training environment.”
Following the investigation, players expressed disappointment with Rugby Canada’s harassment and bullying policy. Since then, the policy has been updated and replaced.
‘We are proud and united,’ writes the captain.
Additionally, Williams expressed gratitude to those who have aided the team: “We have listened to you, and we adore you. We have no regrets and the team’s heads are held high right now.”
Captain Ghislaine Landry, who is based in Tokyo, also took to social media.
“We’ve always known this was about something bigger than rugby, about something bigger than a single tournament, even if it is the Olympics,” Landry wrote. “We were aware that the last nine months could jeopardize our Olympic dreams; we discussed it as a group, and the decision was still clear. We were willing to risk our dreams in the name of progress.” This has not been a diversion, but it has had a detrimental effect on us. As a result, while we are disappointed not to have played our best, we are proud and united.”
The Canadian team entered Tokyo with medal hopes following a bronze medal in rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in Rio five years ago. The team started well against Brazil but fell to Fiji and France in its next two matches.
Canada remained in with a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals as one of the two best third-place teams, but was ultimately beaten by China and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team.
On Friday, at 8:30 p.m. ET, Canada will face Kenya in the ninth-place game.
Cudmore did not respond immediately to a request for an interview from The Canadian Press. On Friday, he issued an apology via Twitter for his tweets.