Instead of pride, a landmark day for Ollie Robinson will be remembered for all the wrong reasons after a series of racist and sexist tweets sent in 2012 e 2013 were unearthed and publicised while he was making his debut as a Test cricketer at Lord’s.
The tweets, in one of which he wrote that “my new muslim friend is the bomb” and in another that “a lot of girls need to learn the art of class”, were all posted between April 2012 and June 2013. In a third he wrote that “females who play video games actually tend to have more sex than the girls who don’t”.
They will embarrass the ECB, and ensured an awkward end to a showpiece occasion when fans returned to Test cricket in England, and to a day that started with the England players donning T-shirts asserting their commitment to combatting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism.
Robinson had been the most successful of England’s bowlers on a difficult day for the team, one dominated by New Zealand and their own debutant, Devon Conway. The 27-year-old took the wickets of the opening batsman Tom Latham and the veteran Ross Taylor, but his achievements on the field will be overshadowed by the controversy these historic tweets will create, one which he learned of only when leaving the field at the close of play.
“On the biggest day of my career so far I’m embarrassed about the racist and sexist tweets that I posted over eight years ago,” Robinson said in a statement. “I want to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist.
“I deeply regret my actions and I’m 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’ve matured as a person and fully regret the tweets. Today should be about my efforts on the field and my pride at making my Test debut, but my thoughtless behaviour in the past has tarnished this. In the last few years I’ve worked hard to turn my life around. I’ve considerably matured as an adult. I would like to unreservedly apologise to anyone I’ve offended, my teammates and the game as a whole.”
Robinson, who has thrived since joining Sussex in 2015, has previously acknowledged that some of his conduct during the period in which he sent the tweets was unacceptable. He had been released by Kent in 2012 and two years later was also released by Yorkshire for what his coach, Jason Gillespie, called “consistently displaying behaviour that isn’t professional”.
The ECB had been trying to position itself as a leader in the fight against discrimination, and in March published a new anti‑discrimination code of conduct and announced the creation of an Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket.
“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,” the ECB’s chief executive officer, Tom Harrison, disse.
“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.”
Speaking on Sky, the former England captain Nasser Hussain said: “It’s another lesson, if you’re going to wear T-shirts about anti-sexism and racism, you can’t be doing this. It’s just not good enough, it’s just not on. But I also think that we’re a bit of a cruel society if we don’t realise that an 18-year-old does make mistakes. It does not make it right in any way. I’ve read the tweets, you should never say those sorts of things whether you’re 18 o 28. But he’s an 18-year-old lad who’s made mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes, and it has ruined his biggest day as a professional cricketer.”
Conway, promoted from the No3 position he normally occupies at club level to open on debut, ended the day unbeaten on 136 with New Zealand 246 for three. “It was a pretty surreal moment for me,” he said of the completion of his century, achieved with perhaps his finest shot of the day to flick the ball off his thigh for four. “I couldn’t have dreamed for a better start to my Test career. It’ll take a few days for it to sink in but it was really cool to have Henry Nicholls on the non-striker’s end cheering me on. As the ball was going towards the boundary I knew it was in the gap and I could just hear Henry saying, ‘Yes boy, yes boy.’ It was a pretty special moment and a moment I’ll remember for a very long time.”
The South Africa-born batsman moved to New Zealand in 2017, and was fast-tracked into the international set-up as soon as clearance to represent the country came through last August. “I was always dreaming of just getting a Test chance but I didn’t expect to score 100 on debut," Egli ha detto. “I’m pretty grateful for how it unfolded. Funny enough I had a conversation with Kane Williamson a few days ago, asking him what it’s like to be on that honours board here at Lord’s. The first thing he said when I got back to the dressing-room is: ‘Now you know.’”