‘Anti-woke hero’ Courtney Lawes on marriage, politics, racism – and rugby

“If you want to keep your head down and not take any criticism then I understand why people want to do that. But I am in a position, having come from not a lot, to be able to express why I was able to get where I am today and hope that my experience, and what I think has given me the opportunity, will help other people get that same opportunity.

“I am just trying to do what I can and use the reach I have got to hopefully help people or improve their lives.”

There has been no contact with Rashford since, but Lawes revealed that he had volunteered to deliver free school meals around Northampton only for complications around Covid-19 to cause a delay.

“We haven’t been in touch. I am not super well-versed on what he is doing and both sides of the argument,” Lawes adds. “I understand his side of the argument and why he is doing it, but I haven’t had a good look into people who are opposing it and why they are opposing it so I don’t have a well-rounded perspective on exactly what is happening.

“But from what I can see, if children are struggling to be fed, then the country certainly has an obligation to help out there.

“I was going to help distribute the school meals over the holidays but that was pushed back because of Covid-19. But I am keen to do anything – from visiting schools, helping young people from poor backgrounds, talking and being there for people who haven’t got any role models or people to look up to.”

His stance has led some to see him as an ‘anti-woke’ hero, not afraid to raise concerns about the actions of organisations such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion and as an unlikely champion of freedom of speech. That he comes from a mixed- race family and from a working-class background has made his voice more impactful.   

“Their arguments are not my thought process,” Lawes adds. “I do not have a revolutionary mindset. I am not a top-down thinker, I am a bottom-up thinker.  I believe in personal and individual responsibility and if you want collective change, that means individual change on a massive level.

“You do your part as an individual for the collective. That is my thought process in most things. That means that I don’t align with movements who group everybody together and say ‘Everyone’s experiences are the same and we need change from the top’.”

Last December Lawes provoked a reaction on social media by tweeting that “England is not a racist country”, while he recently argued that players who did not take the knee before matches should not be seen as racist or used as a divisive issue. He has experienced racism but insists he believes attitudes in the country have improved significantly since his father Linford arrived from Jamaica as a 12 year-old.

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