Richmond’s club rugby team beat William and Mary 46-31 Friday night in front of a home crowd supporting the team's breast cancer research fundraiser.
Head coach Carl Schmitt described the win as a breakthrough. The team held a concession stand with proceeds going toward breast-cancer research funding and the Spiders wore pink socks as a symbol of solidarity.
Although both teams acted with respect and class, the fans failed to follow suit. A heckler in the crowd began relentlessly mocking one of the biggest players on William and Mary’s team, and other fans followed his lead.
At one particularly low moment, the heckler said, “Zimbabwe called. The All Blacks want you.” The comment referenced the renowned New Zealand national rugby team.
The William and Mary player was able to temporarily silence the heckler by pointing at the scoreboard, because William and Mary was winning at the time. However, the strategy was only briefly helpful as the Spiders quickly took the lead.
Eventually, Schmitt approached the heckler with a harsh warning, and told him that if he had that much to say, he could put on a pair of cleats and head out onto the field himself. Although the warning temporarily restored civility, it was fleeting.
With the help of others in the crowd, the heckler began to search for a roster to find the name of the player in order to conduct a Facebook search for more material to use in his taunts.
Despite the insensitivity and callousness displayed by fans, the fundraiser was a success and the game built up substantial momentum for the Spiders.
“The club could be at a turning point,” Schmitt said.
The University of Richmond rugby team will be taking on Christendom on Saturday, April 9.
Contact sports writer Lauren Onestak at firstname.lastname@example.org