Ollie Robinson deserves understanding as well as condemnation

Yesterday should have been the proudest moment of Ollie Robinson’s life. He had made his Test debut for England and taken his first test match wickets. His day ended slightly differently than he might have expected, however. After racist and offensive tweets made by Robinson as an 18-year-old emerged, he was placed in front of the TV cameras, clearly a broken man, while the great and the good of English cricket lined up to condemn him.

The ECB chief executive Tom Harrison was harshest. “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,” he said. “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.”

Of course, Robinson’s tweets are totally unacceptable, but we have become a very unpleasant nation if we are to judge every man or woman by what they may have said as an immature teenager.

Those of us of a slightly older generation are fortunate enough to have gone through our teenage years, with all its attendant mistakes and stupidity, without the spectre of social media preserving our foolishness for ever.

I very much doubt that there is a single person condemning Ollie Robinson who would wish to have their adolescent thoughts and so-called jokes brought out into the public domain. Can even Tom Harrison honestly say he would not regret anything he said as an 18 year old? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone indeed.

This is not to assume, of course, that any of these people ever said anything racist. It is simply to say that at 18 years old, we do not have the wisdom to understand the impact of our words and the maturity to understand how they might affect other people.

It is also to point out that, regardless of age, people change and should be judged on who they are now not on who they may have been in the past. It is worth remembering that Ollie Robinson’s progress at Sussex was overseen by Jason Gillespie, the same head coach who sacked him from Yorkshire the year after these tweets were sent for “unprofessional behaviour”.

Gillespie said at the time that “I think there will be a future for him in the professional game, but I think he needs to learn a lot, and I think he can do it.” Clearly, the Australian would not have developed Robinson into the spearhead of the Sussex attack if he did not believe he had changed and matured.

Robinson also plays in a diverse Sussex team. If he were still the person that he was 8 years ago it is hard to see how he could have fitted in. It is doubtful whether Jofra Archer, for instance, would have been happy to share the new ball with a known racist.

If we do not change and learn to become more forgiving of adolescent mistakes then the plight of the next generation, who have grown up with social media all their lives, will be even worse. We will not be judging them by things they said when they were 18 but by what they said when they were 12.

Human beings are flawed creatures, they say and do bad things as they grow and learn. It is sad that we have become the sort of society where we publicly humiliate and castigate a grown man in this manner for mistakes made in his youth. We should not allow our quest for tolerance to make us an intolerant nation.

Billy Crawford


  • As editor, I should quickly state that the views above belong to the author. I personally found the Tweets quite shocking. However, I do agree that there needs to be some level of understanding here too. It was a long time ago and people can change and learn.

    For me, however, the ECB are also villains in all this. I found Tom Harrison’s words extraordinary – a clear attempt to exempt himself from any blame. Did the authorities not do their due diligence before Robinson was selected? This should have been anticipated in advance and dealt with. Instead we’ve had a media storm on what should have been a great day for Test cricket. I also feel somewhat sorry for Robinson himself as his big day was overshadowed due to a completely avoidable situation.

    Once again, the people running English cricket have been found wanting. They really are a complete shambles, especially considering the recent controversies elsewhere. This isn’t the first time cricket has been in the spotlight re: racism or indeed sexism. Personally, I feel really saddened by events and I think it reflects terribly on all concerned.

    I’d also like to ask everyone to be sensitive about what they write below in the comments – bearing in mind that these are highly sensitive issues.

  • I don’t think you can easily pass off what Robinson wrote as mistakes or stupidity. Ok to an extent what we treat as racist has changed but if you’re signing off with ‘hashtag racist’ it’s pretty plain at any time. Those tweets show a very definite view of women and ethnic minorities that was never ok then or now.

  • I know we live in a PC world now, but for the sanctimonious media to haul a guy over the coals for something he did years before we all became obsessed with sound bite campaigns seems unfair at best. In this day and age it’s as much the fault of the ECB for not doing their bit and checking if there was anything untoward in his background before selecting him.
    On the cricketing front seems a strange selection to go with 4 seamers and Root on a pitch that looks set to dry out in the good weather. Surely Leach should have played instead of one of them, though Robinson did bowl pretty well. Conway proves that you can adapt your white ball skills to the red ball game.

  • The perfect kind of synthetic “controversy” for virtue-signallers and the media (who are the only thing “vile” in any of this). Get upset about some dumb tweets from years ago – but don’t worry about NATO or its chums bombing brown people (including not a few women).

    Harrison has a zero-tolerance policy on “discrimination”? Funny how the ECB were falling over themselves to introduce vaccine passports which would discriminate anyone refusing the vaccine. It is vaguely amusing to see the ECB shooting itself in the foot in its attempts to appeal to women and minorites to save its arse over The Hundred. But only vaguely. It was more amusing to see Robinson totally out-bowl Jimmy and Broady this morning.

    Was there ever a time sport wasn’t about social engineering? It probably always has been but it’s becoming so blatant now.

    • Unfortunately Robinson sounded anything but sincere when he read out the obvious ECB rushed statement/apology, if that’s what it was. I don’t go with woke stuff, but anyone who puts racist comments into print on line, 18 or not, is not a very pleasant individual. But blimey the ECB has really showed it’s unbelievable ineptitude yet again. No background checks, some half baked, half taking the knee Unity we’re all mates thing pre game so, as Simon says, that can tick the right boxes, and all on Day 1 of the first International of the summer. You couldn’t make it up. Where on earth do these people come from? If every an “organisation” needed disbanding and rebuilding from the bottom up it’s this one to redefine English cricket because it’s going down the toilet.

      • I need to say here that I should have put “was”not a pleasant individual rather than “is”. I don’t know him and therefore have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he has changed as he has matured. I hope so anyway.

    • The most amusing aspect of this ‘social engineering’ , a good phrase there Simon, is when sportsmen come off the field and some idiot sticks a microphone under their nose hoping for some juice little morsel and the player drops a swear word. Immediately, even if this is after the he so called 9pm watershed, all the presenters step into overdrive apologising for this horrendous outburst. Don’t they realise how laughable they seem?

  • If the ECB were really serious about it, a certain Overton would never represent England again. Until then, I see no reason to have a shred of confidence in the ECB with regards to racist and sexist language. Of course, knowing the ECB, Ollie Robinson gets dropped so that this Overton can do “England proud”.

  • When I first read this story I was horrified, but, when I read the tweets and saw how long ago they were made by a then 18 year old I concluded that the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Assuming I have seen them all, the ‘racist’ element is very mild by the standards of the time – Princes Philip and Harry, to name but two, have said worse – and whilst some are clearly sexist and made me feel uncomfortable, the fact that some teenage cricketers were sexist, surely comes as no surprise to anyone – apart from anything else it has been demonstrated in Court – and these tweets are pretty mild when taken in context.

    I am no lover of the ECB – and Harrison’s reaction has been like that of Uriah Heep on steroids – but I fail to see how this would have come up in any reasonable due diligence process. All they can do is make reasonable enquiries of players and my guess is that he had either forgotten about these tweets given how old they are or didn’t see anything wrong with them, in which case a statement saying that it was a long time ago, times have changed and he wouldn’t do it now should, I believe, suffice. Look at how many players are in the various representative squads at any one time. Is it really feasible to go through every social media post in the last X years to see if any are mildly offensive to anyone ?

    I think this is an unfortunate incident – not least the timing of the leak – but we should keep it in context and, instead of virtue signalling, support the various cricketing authorities in their (pretty effective) efforts at removing such things from the game.

  • What a sorry situation, nobody wins in an incident like this. I was appalled by the tone of his comments, maybe moreso as an ethnic minority, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for him as he read out that very contrived statement. I realise that he is not the most eloquent of men, clearly (!), but surely it would have been better to let him use his own words, rather than a heavily edited statement written by the press officer? No wonder some commenters have questioned the sincerity…

    Also not sure why some are digging out the press on this one – as if the people who reported Robinson’s comments are somehow to blame, rather than the guy who actually made them? The story is clearly in the public interest and it’s ludicrous to compare their work to that of their colleagues who report on foreign affairs. Apples and oranges. At the end of the day, they didn’t eavesdrop on Robinson’s personal conversations, or invade his privacy by phone-hacking. The only reason that they have come to light is because HE made them public!

  • Have just re-read the article and can agree / understand with most of what Billy writes, with the exception of…

    “It is doubtful whether Jofra Archer, for instance, would have been happy to share the new ball with a known racist.”

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Robinson is a card-carrying member of the BNP. He isn’t a “known racist,” Billy. That’s partly the point. Very few people who hold those views are stupid enough to profess them publicly, knowing what it is likely going to cost them in terms of income / employment / social status. By the way, I’m not suggesting that Robinson secretly holds those kinds of unacceptable opinions. I think (and hope) it was juvenile immaturity more than anything else.

  • Wasn’t it ‘SrIan’ who suggested that Pakistan was a good place to send the mother in law ? Racist and sexist in one fell swoop. Times change. Values change. Perhaps if Robinson were to admit to smoking cannabis as well, he too could end up in the House of Lords.

  • Why do so few black players get near the England squad? Something is so badly wrong at the heart of English cricket. I was not surprised by what we saw this week.

    • My guess would be that it is the same reason that so few white working class players get near the England squad these days – class, education and geography. More players – of all colours and creeds – have been held back by those factors than by their colour.

  • Ollie Robinson made joke about a religion, islam. You can convert to a religion, you cannot convert to a race. I could become a muslim but my race would not change.

    At least people should be precise about what he is being condemned for. Charlie Hebdo the satirical magazine in Paris published jokes about islam and was attacked by terrorists and many people were killed. Is Robinsons crime also analogous to making jokes in a satirical magazine? And if not why not?

    I appreciate he also made some sexist jokes and used the n epithet. The most condemnation however seems to be about the joke he made about a religion. Is his real crime therefore blasphemy and if so should it be criminalised like Imran Khan is demanding?

  • Everybody does stupid things in their teens, as a brown male I honestly hold no illwill towards Robinson, it was a long time ago and he has matured since then. The ECB is entirely to blame for this with their sanctimonious posturing, they did not do their homework before selecting the lad and now are trying to pass the buck.


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