Rob Baxter fears Premiership Rugby have 'hung players out to dry' with failure to adopt unified Black Lives Matter support
Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter has accused Premiership Rugby of "hanging some players out to dry" over their decision to not adopt a unified approach in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
After a five-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Gallagher Premiership will resume on Friday with all 12 teams to demonstrate different pre-match gestures.
Harlequins, Leicester, Wasps to take a knee
Premiership Rugby has opted to leave it to the clubs to decide how "to honour equality, under the banner of Rugby Against Racism".
Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and Wasps will all take a knee in support of the movement, while the Sale Sharks squad will wear 'Rugby Against Racism' t-shirts, highlighting the different gestures decided upon by clubs.
How Premiership Rugby clubs will support Black Lives Matter movement
Bath Rugby will form a huddle in unity shortly before kick-off Bristol Bears will form a heart-shaped formation before kick-off Exeter Chiefs will show their full support for Rugby Against Racism. Gloucester Rugby players will form a ‘V’ Worcester Warriors will form a 'V' Harlequins will take a knee Leicester Tigers will take a knee London Irish will wear 'Rugby Against Racism' t-shirts in the pre-match warm-up, as well as showing their commitment shortly before kick-off Northampton Saints wear 'Rugby Against Racism' t-shirts in the pre-match warm-up, and form a circle formation before kick-off Sale Sharks will wear 'Rugby Against Racism' t-shirts when the team run out Saracens wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts in the pre-match warm-up, as well as showing their commitment shortly before kick-off. Wasps will take a knee
Bristol Bears intend to form a heart shape before kick-off against Saracens while Gloucester and Worcester players will both line up in a 'V' formation.
"Just dropping it on clubs and saying, 'there you go, do what you like' is like hanging some players out to dry," Baxter said.
"I don't know how much positive press players will get if they have a different opinion, which is something we should embrace."
Ahead of their restart fixture against Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park, Exeter will show their "full support for Rugby Against Racism" but it is unclear exactly in what form.
Baxter said it was important clubs strike a balance in the way they support the movement to ensure rugby does not become overly political.
"If we are going to get some balance in all of this, let's remember: we are a sport, we are here to entertain people, let's get back to being a sport and not trying to be a political tool," he added.
Premiership Rugby are yet to decide how long the gestures of respect for black lives and racial equality will last for.
A working group comprising of black players from across the league, plus Ugo Monye and James Bailey said: "Together, we the players stand united in the fight against racism, and we are proud to support the positive message that Black Lives Matter.
"We are not endorsing a political ideology. We are uniting as players to combat racial discrimination, in our sport and in society
Premiership Rugby has also committed to a review of recruitment practices and engaging with professional players to ensure they feel safe among a number of actions to ensure the sport is more diverse, welcoming and inclusive.