While the competition at this year’s Stampede rugby tournament at the Ottoman complex was fierce, it was the conversations taking place on the sidelines that took centre stage at the annual event.
“This year’s stampede, in my opinion as head coach, definitely took the concerns raised by [Lindsay King] and other people in the community to heart and [we] really did everything we could to make sure that the behaviour of those that were visiting reflected our core values as a team and as a rugby community [we] are trying to bring forward,” said Rustlers head coach Braden McCallum.
McCallum was referring to concerns raised in the Williams Lake Tribune by Lindsay King last week alleging the club fosters a “culture of sexual harassment” at the tournament, known for its raucous, provocative behaviour of visitors.
Following the publication, many aired their concerns for the behaviour while many others took to social media to defend the club.
In an interview with the Tribune Monday evening, Williams Lake Rustlers Rugby Football Club President Rodger Stewart acknowledged there were a lot of conversations going on around the fields about the desire to maintain the free and fun atmosphere that the event is known for, while ensuring everyone is safe and not at risk of harm from that behaviour.
Stewart said being able to talk about the growing sensitivities surrounding some activities that take plat Ottoman simply acts to build awareness and establish and reinforce the code of conduct expected there, something that he welcomes.
“We have to be able to have an open and transparent conversation about these sorts of things as they arise,” Stewart said.
“If we can have those conversations everyone should understand what is expected of them.”
In all 19 rugby teams from across the province attended the tournament.
Stewart said while he and others kept an extra eye on the behaviour, one thing the controversy didn’t stem was the spontaneous nudity the tournament is also known for, with an entire female team from the coast going for a run on the pitch topless after a game in the finals, as well as other streakers shedding their clothes throughout the weekend.
“Certainly there was no shortage of people running around without their clothes on,” Stewart said. “These are the types of things that go on that seems to be part and parcel of rugby. They obviously felt it was a comfortable, safe environment.”
Stewart said they will continue to push for a heightened awareness surrounding the concerns raised by King.