Opinion: Ollie Robinson was living the day he had dreamt about for so long. Making his test debut for England at Lord’s, was justifiably a wonderful moment for the 27-year-old pace bowler at the home of cricket.
But it wasn’t meant to be all rosy for Robinson. While he began his first spell and made an immediate impact with the ball against the strong opposition of New Zealand, Robinson was having a different impact outside of the game.
When Ollie Robinson’s outrageously disgusting tweets from the ages of 17 and 18 surfaced and were dug up and aired on his first day of test cricket, it was met with understandable anger and controversy.
Such comments deserve punishment, and Robinson was swiftly suspended from future international cricket, while the ECB conducts its investigation into the matter. Cutting his test dream short for the immediate future to just five days. after a really promising start.
The optics were terrible considering England became such a big champion of the Black Lives Matter cause since 2020, as the team and organisation led the charge in world cricket for their actions in taking a stand against racism and inequality. The side even wore BLM t-shirts before the Lord’s Test, making Robinson’s comments very much inappropriate for a collective trying to be progressive and accepting.
But is it right that Robinson’s dirty laundry was held onto, only to be released on a celebratory day for him?
Plenty of water had gone under the bridge to air his vile comments and give him his due punishment – so why did people on social media forums wait until the day of his test debut to remind Robinson of his inappropriate past actions?
It sums up the modern-day search for a ‘gotcha’ moment. Skeletons in the closet used to be hard to uncover, but social media has allowed for many past actions to be easily searched for and found.
When new sports players burst onto the scene, it presents itself as only another opportunity to find controversy from the past for keen-eyed online investigators. Although the players get rightly punished for their poor actions, is it fair that it be held onto until a time where the news will cause the most pain?
MORE CRICKET NEWS
Ollie Robinson’s comments could’ve been found and released a year ago, or even two. Over five years have now passed since Robinson first published his sexist and homophobic tweets, giving cricket fans on social media plenty of time to find them and expose his inappropriate sayings.
If they had done so, Robinson could’ve faced his embarrassment as an emerging county player, learning his lesson earlier and developing into a more aware person before he hit the test match scene. If you want this behavior to be cut out, then it should be met as soon as possible, not held until a moment of high exposure to make a young person pay in a delayed fashion.
Teammates and players around the world are also coming to Robinson’s defence. While new players get investigated, like James Anderson for inappropriate sexuality comments regarding teammate Stuart Broad from years ago, Robinson’s punishment is largely harsher due to the racial elements involved. Despite the comments deserving this suspension, India’s Ravichandran Ashwin is one fellow player who believes the way social media sets a dangerous precedent for cricketers across the globe. With other teams coming to Robinson’s defence, the situation will only expand into discussions of sanctions and social media going forward.
It’s still important to acknowledge the wrong done by Robinson. His actions are offensive and hurt many communities. His suspension is strong and deserved for a sport trying to blend in with modern society as best as possible – it’s a statement that continues cricket’s will to shed old behaviors and mindsets that are dangerous and alienating. The punishment is never the problem with this saga.
What is most damaging is the way the media acted on this. Just overnight, the England Cricket Board announced they were looking into a second player for offensive tweets, this time being unable to name them immediately as the tweets came when the player was under the age of 18.
It sets a dangerous precedent for media standards going forward – will player debuts no longer be met with just a cap presentation, but an internet deep dive to looking for a chance to expose them?
It’s a big sign of what’s to come in regards to social media treatment going forward. Already many are hopping on the trend, sending screenshots of any dubious behavior to English media people in the hope they produce the next big story. But it’s a problem for the England Cricket Board, who seem to be taking the same hard-line approach as they did with Robinson.
What comes next is paramount to this issue facing England’s cricket culture. In the fight to rid elite leagues of toxic masculinity and inappropriate behavior, the power is now solely in the hands of the public, scouring the internet for a tiny mistake. Waiting for the right time to cause the most pain. I’m not sure that’s the way it should be.
The findings and swiftness of actions from the ECB in the wake of this fresh scandal will be a test case for Cricket and no less all sporting boards across the globe. A case as to how to mandate social media standards and how to ensure that players also aren’t being brought down for things they did when they were once young and naïve.
Subscribe to our newsletter!