There are few things that are off-limits in the world of sports – hair-pulling, eye-gouging, and the family jewels. Everything else is fair game in the heat of battle. Except the referee. During a recent French rugby match, (former) player Hedi Ouedjdi lost his head and committed a cardinal sin: knocking the referee unconscious with a vicious sucker punch.
Punching another player is one thing; sometimes even called for. But never the referee. You can see number 2 on the pink team immediately rushes over to confront the offender, eats a punch, and promptly body slams Ouedjdi with a dump tackle before the rest of his teammates have time to jump in the fray. Rugby is inherently physical, but there are certain lines you do not cross, ever.
Not to mention that the referee happened to be none other than Benjamin Casty, brother of France international and Catalans Dragons captain Remi Casty. The professional rugby community is pretty tight-knit, and that fact was not lost on any of the players. Punching a referee is unforgivable, but it’s especially egregious given the ref is the blood brother of the captain of a professional rugby team.
Big hits are a big part of rugby’s enduring global popularity, but this was a truly sickening act. Rugby players are prepared to get hit. It comes with the territory. But referees traditionally enjoy immunity. They are untouchable; like war reporters with “PRESS” plastered across their bullet proof vests (in theory). At least reporters going into war zones enter on their own volition, knowing full well that they’re putting themselves in harm’s way.
A lifetime ban isn’t the only fallout Ouedjdi faces from this callous lack of judgement. A civil suit is certainly on the way. Unfortunately for Benjamin Casty, neither Ouedjdi, his club, nor the league have the means at their disposal to make this well-documented, viral incident disappear like United Airlines did when they offered the Asian doctor a pile of money to disappear after violently removing him from an overbooked flight while the entire plane videotaped.
Surely, all parties involved in this ugly rugby affair wish it never happened. Hedi Ouedjdi made a terrible mistake that was caught on camera for the world to watch. Benjamin Casty got a hell of a shiner and will forever be known as “the ref who got knocked out.”
If there’s a teachable moment here, it’s that even in the fog of war, there are some things that are simply unforgivable.