The Samoan rugby team will not be joining their All Black counterparts in a complete Twitter ban, team management announced. This despite a controversial tweet from centre Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono comparing the team’s gruelling World Cup schedule to slavery, apartheid and even the holocaust.
Assistant coach Tom Coventry said that Samoan management would prefer not to gag players, even after Sapolu Fuimaono’s tweets saw him having to make an official apology to World Cup officials.
“We try not to gag anyone. Obviously guys have their opinions and we want them to have their opinions, it’s just how they express them and some of the language they use when they are expressing themselves,” Coventry said.
“I suppose he had an issue but it’s just some of the words he used in his message. I think he used the word ‘holocaust’ and things like that, you’ve just got to be careful.”
The tweet at the centre of the controversy blamed the World Cup scheduling for Samoa’s Pool D to defeat to Wales. Smaller countries are often given fewer days off between games than their higher ranked counterparts.
The tweet read:
“Ok, it’s obvious the IRB are unjust. Wales get 7 days, we get 3. Unfair treatment, like slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid.”
After a meeting with tournament officials the International Rugby Board let Sapolu Fuimano off with a warning.
“I think if he thought back about it he would have regretted some of the things he said but that’s social media isn’t it? That’s how it works,” Coventry said.
“You text something and it’s gone before you think, ‘I shouldn’t have said that’. And the whole world can see it.”
Sapolu Fuimano is not the first international rugby player to have found himself in trouble because of a tweet.
In May, Australia winger Digby Ioane was fined Aus$2 000 (US$1 955) after he tweeted that match official Keith Brown was the “worst ref ever” after a Super 15 game.
The IRB had apparently warned teams participating at the World Cup about the dangers of social media as far back as July.
“It’s been advised by the IRB to all the teams to be careful on social media. That was brought up a couple of months ago during the PNC. I think there have been a couple of issues with other players from other teams,” Coventry said.
“He (Sapulo Fuimaono) wasn’t speaking for Manu Samoa, he was speaking as Eliota. We were as surprised as anyone at the comments. This is what happens with these young guys and social media they just need to be careful,” he added.
Despite the warning, the centre has continued to defend the claims he made in the original tweet: