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.”
Robinson’s current club, Sussex, issued a statement saying, “we were beyond disappointed to read these tweets when they were brought to our attention today” and that “their content was wholly unacceptable”.
“We are pleased that Ollie has apologised unreservedly and taken responsibility for a significant mistake that he made as a teenager,” the statement said. “His age does not excuse the content of these tweets in any way and he will now suffer the consequences of his actions.”
The club went on to say that “in the years since the tweets were posted, Ollie has matured hugely”.
“We know he recognises the severity of the situation and that he is devastated that what should have been a proud day has been overshadowed in this manner,” the statement said. “We know also that Ollie will learn some very important lessons from this experience. We will be here to offer any support Ollie needs during that process.”
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.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
‘Fearless’ Dan Christian ideally suited to Australia’s T20 World Cup needs
His BBL coach Greg Shipperd believes the allrounder could fill one of the troublesome middle-order spots
Thirty-eight-year-old Christian, who last played for Australia in 2017, was one of six players added to the large preliminary squad ahead of the tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh with the expectation that a number of those involved in the IPL will make themselves unavailable for the trip.
“It’s a unique format of the game and he’s got a unique skillset as a strong finisher through the middle and at the back-end with the bat, he’s got the capability to bowl a couple of intelligent, player-specific overs right across the three phases with the ball,” Shipperd said on the day he signed a two-year extension as the Sixers coach which takes him to the end of the 2023-24 season.
“He’s a super fieldsman but there’s also a wealth of cricketing strategy and knowledge that resides in his brain and he’s a real giver in any team he’s involved with. If you’re going into a specific tournament, they’ve got a couple of World Cups coming up, he’s a strong choice. He’s in form, he’s fit and strong, he’s got a lot of positives going for him. I hope he gets game time and performs really well and gets an opportunity to play in the World Cup.”
Christian, these days a freelancing T20 specialist, was also at the IPL before it was suspended but headed to England to take up his deal with Nottinghamshire for the T20 Blast which he has now withdrawn from to undertake a two-week quarantine back in Australia ahead of leaving for the West Indies.
He has previously spoken of not giving up hope of adding to his 16 T20I caps despite the lengthy time since his last selection having enjoyed an impressive 2020-21 BBL season for the title-winning Sixers after moving from the Melbourne Renegades who he also helped to the title in 2018-19.
If he makes it into the final XI on the upcoming tours it would be in one of the middle-order positions that has proved troublesome for Australia to fill as they try to balance their T20I side.
In last season’s BBL he made 272 runs at 34.00 with a strike rate of 182.55 which included a 16-ball 50 against the Adelaide Strikers and an unbeaten 61 off 38 balls to guide a chase against Brisbane Heat. Though he was less prolific in the first part of the PSL and IPL before each was suspended, Shipperd lauded the clarity he can bring to tough game situations, going as far as to say it “blows my mind” that he can often do it while on the player microphone.
“It is indeed a very specialist role and it’s about calmness and clarity in the moment. And being fearless,” he said. “He’s at the stage of his career where he’s using his experience wisely and he’s not playing for the next year or next major contract, he plays with this fearless but experienced mindset that allows him to take the best option.
“It’s rare for a player to be mic-ed up as he often is in those phases and be taking the commentators and viewers through what he’s thinking and doing. As a coach that blows my mind so just shows the poise he has and he’s using his experience well.”
Shipperd picked out Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Daniel Sams and Sean Abbott – the latter facing a significant recovery period after a hamstring injury playing for Surrey – as other candidates for the Australia middle order but the depth of Christian’s CV holds him in good stead.
“A lot of other players haven’t been in those moments and dealt with that pressure, made the call, succeeded and failed,” he said. “He balances those yo-yos that this form of the game throws at you particularly well. He presents as such a valuable player for a tournament. I would be pushing and promoting him competing strongly for one of those positions.”
Australia’s large preliminary squad, which currently numbers 29, will be trimmed to around 19 before the team leaves at the end of June. The West Indies tour includes five ODIs and three ODIs followed by five more T20Is in Bangladesh although dates for those matches are yet to be confirmed.
In terms of their final build-up to the T20 World Cup in October – which is expected to be moved from India to the UAE – there will then be the question of whether players will be able to return to the IPL which is due to resume in mid-September in the UAE.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Sophie Molineux named Melbourne Renegades captain
The allrounder replaces Amy Satterthwaite after a season where the Renegades won four matches
Molineux’s appointment, to replace New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite, means a new captain-coach combination for the Renegades with Simon Helmot having replaced Lachlan Stevens.
Last season Molineux scored 221 runs and took 11 wickets as the team secured four wins in 14 matches during the tournament that was played entirely in a Sydney-based hub.
“It’s a real honour to be appointed captain of a club I love so much and follow in the footsteps of some high-quality leaders that I look up to,” Molineux said.
“Amy Satterthwaite has had a massive influence on the group and on me personally. Her wealth of knowledge and ability to stay composed is what I’ve always admired. Jess Duffin is such a competitor and leads by example and I’ve also had the privilege of playing under Meg Lanning in the Victorian and Australian teams.
“I am really excited to be able to take what I’ve learnt from each of them, combine it with how I approach the game and continue to grow and learn along the way.”
Molineux is a regular part of Australia squads with 24 T20I caps under her belt alongside six ODIs and one Tests although did not make the side during the tour of New Zealand earlier this year.
“Sophie has fantastic relationships within the squad. She’s tactically astute, trusted and highly respected across the playing group,” Helmot said. “She’s had an excellent apprenticeship working under some great captains, including Amy who has helped nurture so much of our young talent.
“That grounding under such leadership will have Sophie well prepared, we’re excited to see this next phase in her career and we’ll support her along the way. We look forward to the start of a sustained period of success for the club under Sophie’s leadership.”
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