Rugby Canada fires coach who made 'unacceptable' posts toward women's 7s team at Tokyo Olympics
'This is what we have been dealing with for months,' rugby veteran Charity Williams writes
Rugby Canada fired the head of its national development program after "a review of recent social media postings which were unacceptable and in breach of organization policy," the governing body announced in a statement Friday.
Rugby sevens veteran Charity Williams shared a screengrab of several tweets from the account of Jamie Cudmore, a former Canadian men's team player who had been Rugby Canada's head of national development, after the women's team missed the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics.
One of the since-deleted tweets from Cudmore's account read: "Karma is a bitch! #Survivorsmyass." The tweet was an apparent response to a complaint about bullying and harassment presented by members of the women's team to Rugby Canada earlier this year.
Rugby Canada confirmed the tweet came from Cudmore's account.
"We are taking this matter very seriously and concluded that immediate action must be taken," Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in a statement. Cudmore was also relieved of his coaching duties with the men's 15s team.
1/5: Rugby Canada has relieved Jamie Cudmore of his coaching duties with the Canadian Rugby Development Academy and Men’s Rugby Team effective immediately. <a href="https://t.co/AiTW7uuxuM">pic.twitter.com/AiTW7uuxuM</a>—@RugbyCanada
"Rugby Canada's core values, including integrity and respect, must be exemplified in all our rugby programs and we are determined to promote a healthy, inclusive culture now and in future," Sally Dennis, the chair of Rugby Canada's board, said in the statement.
The organization previously condemned the comments.
Williams began her post by expressing how proud she was of her team, regardless of on-field results."What we accomplished this year is far greater than one weekend," she wrote on Instagram.
"But instead I have to sit here, once again, and share what we've been going through as a team. The consistent hatred we have received from people in our own organization," Williams wrote. "I'm only sharing because this is what we have been dealing with for months.
"The bullying and harassment that we have received for coming forward is outrageous and scary at times. This is the reason we called for an internal investigation because we haven't been safe."
An independent review in April concluded that while the conduct described in the complaint filed by 37 current and former team members reflected the experiences of the athletes, it did not fall within Rugby Canada's policy's definition of harassment or bullying.
Head coach John Tait subsequently stepped down, while maintaining he had done nothing wrong.
In a statement released April 28, the players said their complaint "explained the psychological abuse, harassment and/or bullying these athletes feel they were subjected to in the centralized training environment."
In the wake of the investigation, players said they had been let down by Rugby Canada's harassment and bullying policy. The policy has since been updated and replaced.
'We are proud and united,' captain writes
Williams also expressed gratitude to those who have supported the team: "We have heard you and we love you. We don't regret a single moment and the team's heads are all held high right now."
Captain Ghislaine Landry also took to social media from Tokyo.
"We always knew this was about more than rugby, about more than one tournament, even if it's the Olympics," Landry wrote. "We knew the last nine months might put our Olympic dream in jeopardy, we had that discussion as a group, and still the decision was clear. We were ready to put our dreams at risk for change.
"This has not been a distraction but it has taken a toll on us. And so, while we are heartbroken not to have been able to play our best, we are proud and united."
The Canadian squad entered Tokyo with medal expectations after winning bronze in rugby sevens' Olympic debut five years ago in Rio. The team opened up strong against Brazil, but dropped its next two matches to Fiji and France.
Canada still had a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals as one of the two best third-place teams but was ultimately edged out by China and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team.
Canada will face Kenya in the ninth-place game on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Cudmore did not immediately respond to an interview request from The Canadian Press. He posted a statement on Twitter on Friday apologizing for his tweets.
I would like to apologize for the tweets posted last night. It’s was an emotional event for a good friend and I let that get the better of me. I’ve always played/coached with my heart on my sleeve for this great country 🇨🇦 I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone.—@JNCudmore
With files from The Canadian Press