Ollie Robinson has “unreservedly apologised” after admitting posting “racist and sexist” comments on Twitter while a teenager.
The Tweets, sent between April 2012 and June 2013, included use of the N word, comments suggesting Muslim people were linked with terrorism, and derogatory comments about women and people of Asian heritage. Robinson was aged 18 and 19 and representing either Leicestershire, Kent and Yorkshire in second-team cricket.
“On the biggest day of my career so far, I am embarrassed by the racist and sexist tweets that I posted over eight years ago, which have today become public,” Robinson said in a statement released shortly after stumps on the opening day of the two-Test series against New Zealand. “I want to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist.
“I deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks. I would like to unreservedly apologise to anyone I have offended, my teammates and the game as a whole in what has been a day of action and awareness in combatting discrimination from our sport.”
There was some irony in the timing of the discovery. Both England and New Zealand joined in a ‘moment of unity’ ahead of play in an attempted to show a collective stance against any form of discrimination in cricket. England also unveiled training t-shirts to be worn all summer which bear slogans declaring that ‘cricket is a game for everyone’ on the front and denouncing racism, sexism and religious intolerance among other things on the back.
“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,” Robinson continued.
“I will continue to educate myself, look for advice and work with the support network that is available to me to learn more about getting better in this area. I am sorry, and I have certainly learned my lesson today.”
The Tweets may also expose the ECB to allegations of a failure to conduct due diligence. Robinson has been close to the England team for some time – he has toured with the Lions and spent months in the senior team’s bio-bubble in recent times – so it may raise eye-brows that nobody at the organisation had noticed such comments. Questions might also be raised of Yorkshire, who are currently facing an enquiry into their attitude towards race and inclusivity. Robinson made his first-team debut for the club in August 2013.
While the comments were made several years ago, it is possible Robinson could still face disciplinary action from the ECB. A statement from ECB chief executive Tom Harrison made it clear that a “zero tolerance” attitude to such behaviour will be taken and committed to “a full investigation as part of our disciplinary process.”
“I do not have the words to express how disappointed I am that an England Men’s player has chosen to write tweets of this nature, however long ago that might have been,” Harrison said.
“Any person reading those words, particularly a woman or person of colour, would take away an image of cricket and cricketers that is completely unacceptable. We are better than this.
“We have a zero-tolerance stance to any form of discrimination and there are rules in place that handle conduct of this nature. We will initiate a full investigation as part of our disciplinary process.
“Our England Men’s Team, alongside others from the ECB and our partners across the game, worked together today to create a moment of unity. Using today’s spotlight to reaffirm our commitment to driving forward an anti-discrimination agenda. Our commitment to that effort remains unwavering, and the emergence of these comments from Ollie’s past reiterates the need for ongoing education and engagement on this issue.”
Until the emergence of the Tweets, Robinson had enjoyed a memorable day for almost entirely positive reasons. Having been presented with his Test cap by former Sussex colleague Jon Lewis, who is now the bowling coach with England, he impressed in taking two of the first three wickets on a flat pitch. Delivering an excellent probing length, he generated movement in both directions and looked to have the talent to forge a decent career at the top level.
“Today should be about my efforts on the field and the pride of making my Test debut for England, but my thoughtless behaviour in the past has tarnished this,” Robinson’s statement continued.
While Robinson made no attempt to excuse his behaviour, he did suggest he had “matured as a person” since the Tweets were posted. In a subsequent media conference, he also suggested they had been sent in a period of turmoil after his release from Yorkshire. While the tweets came to prominence shortly after lunch, it is understood that the England management did not tell Robinson until the close of play.
“I was thoughtless and irresponsible, and regardless of my state of mind at the time, my actions were inexcusable,” Robinson continued. “Since that period, I have matured as a person and fully regret the tweets.
“Over the past few years, I have worked hard to turn my life around. I have considerably matured as an adult. The work and education I have gained personally from the PCA, my county Sussex and the England Cricket Team have helped me to come to terms and gain a deep understanding of being a responsible professional cricketer.”
It was not until July 2014 that Yorkshire terminated Robinson’s contract due to “unprofessional” conduct. The club’s coach at the time, Jason Gillespie, was quoted at the time as saying: “‘When a player consistently displays behaviour that isn’t professional, there has to be a point in time when you say, ‘look, this isn’t really working, you’re obviously not bothered about playing for the club’.'”
There will be some who dismiss the Tweets as the work of an immature young man and suggest Robinson should not be defined by them. Others will point out that we may all have once been young and foolish, but we have not all been young, foolish and racist. Either way, they will be an acute embarrassment to the individual as well as the ECB and do nothing to convince the doubters that the sport is inclusive and welcoming.
In the longer-term, though, Robinson’s Tweets may serve to provide a reminder of where we are as a sport and a society on such issues. By doing so, they underline the importance of the England’s team’s current campaign in ensuring there is greater awareness and education in such areas.
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.