The cricketer Ollie Robinson has recently been suspended when it came to light that, as an 18 and 19 year old, he tweeted comments which were both racist and sexist. On the verge of a promising test career, how should he now be treated and punished for past mistakes?
He has offered a full apology and condemned their content:
“I deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks. I was thoughtless and irresponsible, and regardless of my state of mind at the time, my actions were inexcusable. Since that period, I have matured as a person and fully regret the tweets.”
In the circumstances one would have hoped that the Prime Minister would allow the English Cricket Board (ECB) investigation to take place without making comments, which might excuse the nature of Robinson’s comments or even prejudice the case. However, when Conservative MP Oliver Dowden tweeted that,
“The ECB has gone over the top by suspending him and should think again.”
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said:
“The PM is supportive of Oliver Dowden’s comments … these [Mr Robinson’s] were comments made more than a decade ago written by someone as a teenager and for which they’ve rightly apologised.”
Yes, Robinson has rightly offered a full apology (but he was old enough to vote when he made the comments) and added:
“I don’t want something that happened eight years ago to diminish the efforts of my teammates and the ECB as they continue to build meaningful action with their comprehensive initiatives and efforts, which I fully endorse and support.”
However, even more concerning is the reaction by Dowden and Johnson. It yet again shows either a major misunderstanding of who and what is at stake or is a deliberate, cynical attempt to offer tacit support for the views initially expressed and those who wish to excuse them. Of course, Johnson doesn’t get racism and sexism. He has plenty of form when it comes to making comments, which enable racism to flourish and to be excused by people who are free to go about their daily lives without hindrance or obstruction as a consequence of skin colour or their sex.
By not understanding the issue, by not denouncing the content of the tweets but instead criticising the ECB, Johnson offers support to those who would have more sympathy for the cricketer than those who are on the receiving end of Robinson’s original comments.
Fortunately there are those within cricket who see it differently. Former England batsman Mark Ramprakash said of Johnson’s comments:
“I think it is very unwelcome. He is trying to bear undue influence in this case. If I was Ollie Robinson I’m not sure I’d want Boris Johnson involved and trying to support me.”
The present England captain Joe Root said:
“It’s a lesson to everyone in the game … More has to be done, that continued education and learning about how to behave in society and within our sport. We’ve started doing a lot of good work as a team. We want to make the game as inclusive and diverse as we possibly can and we’ll continue to keep looking at finding ways to make that possible.”
I hope Robinson rebuilds his very promising career and takes a lead in repairing the damage. By highlighting the ignorance of his previous views he may be able to help educate a generation.
He might also try and educate Messrs Dowden and Johnson as well.
Now that would be a suitable punishment!