Caroline Flack death: Gloucester to raise mental health awareness after Danny Cipriani abused

Gloucester and England fly-half found himself the subject of a personal attack by former Talksport presenter Mike Parry 

Jack de Menezes
Monday 17 February 2020 12:01
TV presenter Caroline Flack found dead aged 40

Gloucester rugby club will use this Friday’s Premiership match against Sale Sharks to raise awareness of mental health issues in response to the abuse that Danny Cipriani suffered following Caroline Flack’s tragic death.

Gloucester and England fly-half Cipriani dated Flack last year, with the rugby star hitting out at the media for the way they treated the former Love Island presenter. Flack was found dead at her home on Saturday and her family lawyer said that she took her own life on Valentine’s Day, with the TV personality facing a court case next month over allegations that she assaulted her boyfriend Lewis Burton last year.

Cipriani’s emotional message received a wave of support from a number of social media users, but it also provoked an abusive response from former Talksport presenter Mike Parry, who labelled the Gloucester player “pathetic” and “a failed rugby playing little bum”.

Parry was heavily criticised for his comments, and Gloucester chief executive Lance Bradley confirmed on Monday that he has spoken to Cipriani about the incident and how they can try to create something positive out of what has been a traumatic weekend.

“As things developed over the weekend I thought we should try and turn this into something positive,” Bradley told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

“I spoke to Danny about ‘what do you think if we made our next home game in aid of a mental health charity with you at the forefront of it so we can turn it into something positive that everybody can unite behind?’

“Danny was very positive about that and that’s what we’re going to do. Danny was very keen to emphasise: be kind to people.”

Bradley was also keen to stress that there is a big difference between criticising a player or team’s performance in a match and targeting them with personal abuse, with the club official calling for those who use social media for such negative outbursts to think about what they’re saying before they post.

"Our staff are in the limelight so much and some people think it’s ok to make them a target,” Bradley said.

“And honestly it’s not. They’re people too. If you think a player didn’t play well or we should’ve won a game that we lost, all of those things are perfectly valid for fans

“Personal criticism I really don’t think has a place and people need to think, all of us need to think carefully about what we tweet and I think the rule should be if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it.”

The unsavoury incident stemmed from Parry attacking Cipriani in the immediate hours after news of Flack’s death emerged on Saturday night.

Cipriani wrote: “The media are f*****. Never held accountable. They lie. Get away with it every time. People are so quick to read it and just throw nasty comments. She (Flack) was a kind soul and didn’t deserve the way she was bullied.”

Parry responded to the fly-half’s comments, and took a vicious swipe at his sporting ability as well as his personality, and claimed that he was attempting to “use” his ex-girlfriend’s death for an “anti-media campaign”.

Parry said: “You are truly pathetic Cipriani .. Caroline Flack, a huge star, has died and a failed rugby playing little bum like you has decided to use her horrific death as a platform for your anti-media campaign. You didn't get good stuff written about you because you weren't very good.”

The attack triggered numerous responses condemning Parry, given that his comments were exactly what Cipriani was calling out, and the abusive message provoked a measured response from the 16-time capped England international in which he revealed that he missed a call from Flack on Friday while playing against Exeter Chiefs.

“You couldn’t be more misguided. I don’t know who you are. I sincerely hope you get the love you never received. This has nothing to do with a game. I missed her call because of a f****** game. I’ve been up all night. Never cried this much. But I’m showing you it’s ok to be vulnerable.”

Cipriani hit out at the media’s treatment of ex-girlfriend Flack (Getty)

Parry refused to delete his message though, and responded: “No way will I be withdrawing my tweet about Cipriani. I think it's disgusting of him to use foul language and further to use the horrific and tragic death of Caroline Flack to enforce or "prove" one of his own personal beliefs about the media – with whom he's had many dealings

“My beef with @DannyCipriani87 tweet is that you attack the media and suggest they have some responsibility [sic] for this shocking tragedy. Absolutely not. Everybody who's commented throughout has rightly expressed enormous sympathy and empathy for Caroline and her position me included.”

Parry’s criticism of Cipriani went down badly within his former employers who have received numerous complaints even though he left the company in August last year, and current Talksport presenter Laura Woods joined the growing swell of responses that called for him to take down his comments.

“Ill informed at best, Mike. Delete this and stay off Twitter,” Woods wrote on Twitter.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the national mental health database – Hub of Hope – allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area.

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