The Prime Minister has defended Sussex and England cricketer Ollie Robinson after he was suspended over offensive tweets that he posted as a teenager.
Boris Johnson became the second senior politician to speak out after the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden responded to the row yesterday (Monday 7 June).
Robinson said sorry and that he was embarrassed and ashamed by the tweets but the controversy overshadowed his Test debut for England against New Zealand last week.
The embarrassment was heightened because, before the match at Lord’s, Robinson and his team-mates paraded in t-shirts saying “Cricket is a game for everyone” on the front.
And on the back of each shirt was one of seven slogans disavowing different types of discrimination including “We stand together against sexism” and “We stand together against racism”.
The England and Wales Cricket Board suspended Robinson, 27, pending a disciplinary investigation and he will miss the second and final Test against New Zealand which starts on Thursday (10 June).
The Prime Minister said that he agreed with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary’s assessment that Robinson’s suspension from all international cricket was “over the top”.
Mr Dowden acknowledged that Robinson’s tweets were “offensive and wrong” but said that they “are also a decade old and written by a teenager”.
Mr Dowden said: “The teenager is now a man and has rightly apologised. The ECB has gone over the top by suspending him and should think again.”
The Prime Minister said afterwards: “As Oliver Dowden set out, these were comments made more than a decade ago, written by someone as a teenager, and for which they have rightly apologised.”
Despite the controversy, Robinson impressed on the field, taking seven wickets and contributing 42 runs with the bat, but he was given no assurances about his England future.
After the match was drawn, England head coach Chris Silverwood said: “The investigation will happen and any decisions will be made after that.
“Let’s see what comes of it first. There’ll be an investigation and we’ll see after that.
“What should have been one of the greatest days of Ollie’s career didn’t end well for him. It was disappointing for the group. It was a stark reminder for us all of the responsibilities that we hold in the position that we are in.
“There is absolutely no place in this game for any form of discrimination whatsoever. He showed a lot of remorse. He apologised publicly. He apologised to the dressing room. I think it’s been a really big learning curve for him.
“The big thing for us all is education. We are all striving to be better. None of us are perfect and we all need to make sure we are learning all the time. We can make sure the world is a better place.”
Silverwood told Robinson about his old tweets resurfacing when he came off the field at the end of play on Wednesday.
The coach said: “He was obviously devastated, embarrassed and very remorseful. He was very quick to take on board what had happened. He had to face up to this.
“It’s not what we wanted, that’s for sure. Equally, we had to get on with the Test match. That isn’t to say we dismissed it whatsoever. We will seek the education around that in order to try to better ourselves.”
Robinson’s replacement at Edgbaston, in Birmingham, on Thursday is likely to be Craig Overton who could also face scrutiny.
The seam bowler was banned for two matches after allegedly telling Ashar Zaidi, who was playing for Sussex at the time, to “get back to your own country” in 2015.
Overton has always denied making the comment and did so again in an interview with Wisden last week as England step up their efforts to combat discrimination in all forms in cricket.
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