The England and Wales Cricket Board is under pressure to review its treatment of Ollie Robinson after the Prime Minister condemned his “over the top” suspension of the bowler over historic Twitter posts.
It came after Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, told the ECB to “reconsider” the tough sanction, saying the racist and sexist tweets were “over a decade old and written by a teenager”.
In a separate spat between the Government and sporting bodies over “woke” behaviour, the England football team’s decision to continue taking the knee at the start of Euro 2020 this weekend has come under intense scrutiny.
Boris Johnson refused to condemn fans who booed players during the pre-match ritual, and senior MPs called on the Football Association to show “leadership” on an issue increasingly dividing fans.
Robinson, 27, has been suspended indefinitely by the ECB pending a disciplinary inquiry into social media posts he wrote in 2012 and 2013, which came to light when he made his Test debut at Lord’s last week.
The seaman apologized for the tweets and said he was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” by what he wrote as a teenager but had not been offered any guarantees that his international career would continue.
Mr Dowden said that while the posts were “offensive and false,” the teenager who wrote them “is now a man and has rightly apologized. The ECB overdid it with the suspension and should reconsider.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As Oliver Dowden pointed out, these were comments made more than a decade ago, written by someone as a teenager, and for which he has rightly apologized.”
The ECB declined to comment when asked about the ministers’ comments.
Robinson, who conceded seven wickets and scored 42 runs in the first Test against New Zealand, has been told he will miss the second and final Test at Edgbaston, which begins on Thursday.
Craig Overton, his possible replacement at Birmingham, was himself banned for two games after he allegedly told then-Sussex player Ashar Zaidi in 2015 to “go back to her own country”. He has always denied the statement.
Meanwhile, the squat threatens to overshadow England’s preparations for Euro 2020 as growing numbers of fans reject the gesture, which has become a pre-match ritual last year.
Although players insist that getting on one knee before kick-off is simply a sign of support for racial equality, others say it cannot be divorced from the more radical politics of the Black Lives Matter movement.
One MP even compared the kneeling to England players being forced to do Nazi salutes before a 1938 game in Hitler’s Germany, saying “the mixing of politics and football had disastrous results”.
Analysis of telegraph sports suggests that up to 18 of the 24 teams taking part in the Euro will not take a knee, with several countries opting instead to support a politically neutral campaign in support of racial equality and human rights.
The toxic confrontation between Gareth Southgate’s team and his supporters intensified on Sunday as fans once again loudly booed the gesture ahead of the team’s final warm-up game before the tournament against Romania.
Boris Johnson has said in the past he wouldn’t take the knee because he doesn’t believe in ‘gestures’ and on Monday his official spokesman repeatedly refused, saying it was wrong for fans to boo players when they object to it raise.
Other senior ministers including Mr Dowden, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have said in the past they would not take the knee and disagree with it.
Amid fears that boos will continue when England take on Croatia in the opener of Euro 2020 on Sunday, MPs and England supporters have blasted the FA for its handling of the dispute.
Clive Efford, a Labor member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport selection committee and a former shadow sport secretary, said the FA should have done more, whether by appealing directly to England fans not to boo the gesture, or an alternative suggested it.
“[The FA] never took the lead,” Efford said. “It has ceded its responsibilities to the Premier League, the Football League and now Gareth Southgate and the England players who have taken the knee.”
He added: “Has the FA discussed what would happen in this situation? If no, why not? And when they talked about it, what was their conclusion? Because they are nowhere to be seen at the moment and they should show leadership.”
Steve Brine, a Conservative colleague of Efford’s, said the FA could have tried to put an “anti-racism badge” on players’ shirts or develop “a special armband”.
He added, “They could have done things, but they chose not to fight this fight.”
Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP who in 1938 drew the comparison between kneeling and the Nazi salute of players, said: “The main point I’m trying to make is that we should keep politics and football separate.
“While I have no doubt that the players have honorable intentions, I don’t think they fully realize that the political element of Black Lives Matter is inseparable from the other part and this is now causing conflict.”
His remarks were called “insulting” by a leading anti-Semitism activist.
However, the FA declined to comment telegraph sports has been said to deny it did not do enough to prevent a dispute over the knee and believes Southgate and others have repeatedly articulated their own position.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2021/06/07/government-clashes-cricket-football-woke-behaviour/ Government clashes with cricket and football over ‘woke’ behaviour