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Explained: Why is Ollie Robinson under fire for tweets from nine years ago?

Screenshots containing a chain of racist and sexist tweets posted by Ollie Robinson on Twitter nine years ago began doing the rounds on several social media platforms, triggering an uproar.

Written by Vishal Menon , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 17, 2021 9:37:17 am
England's Ollie Robinson at Lord's Cricket Ground, London, Britain. (Reuters)

With wickets of Tom Latham and Ross Taylor on Day One, it was shaping up to be a dream Test debut for England pacer Ollie Robinson at Lord’s. Instead, it quickly snowballed into one of the worst days for the 27-year-old’s cricketing career after screenshots containing a chain of racist and sexist tweets posted by him on Twitter nine years ago began doing the rounds on several social media platforms, triggering an uproar.

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What were the tweets and when did it resurface?

In one particular tweet from 2012, Robinson said: “My new Muslim friend is the bomb”. In another: “I wonder if Asian people put smileys like this ¦) #racist”, while a third tweet quipped: “Guy next to me on the train definitely has Ebola.” These screenshots resurfaced on numerous social media platforms after lunch interval on Day 1 of the ongoing Test between England and New Zealand.

How did Robinson react?

He has served an unconditional apology for his tweets, and conceded that he was left “embarrassed” that they had resurfaced on the day he made his Test debut. “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 Lord’s Test. “I want to make it clear that I’m not racist and I’m not sexist, and deeply regret my actions, and I am ashamed of making such remarks…,” he added.

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England’s Ollie Robinson during the England v New Zealand test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. (Reuters)

Who began circulating these old tweets?

It remains unclear as to who circulated these screenshots on social media on Wednesday afternoon. Robinson’s Twitter handle is currently suspended. It’s possible that someone had saved these old tweets and began circulating them on the day he made his debut.

What makes the discovery of these 9-year-old tweets ironic?

That’s because Robinson, along with the rest of his England team-mates had participated in ‘Moment of Unity’ ahead of the first day’s play, where they donned t-shirts as a show of solidarity to weed out intolerance in all forms — racism, sexism and religious — from the game. In this backdrop, these revelations surrounding Robinson are laced with a tinge of irony.

What has been ECB’s reaction to this fiasco?

As things stand, the ECB said they would be launching a detailed investigation into the matter. ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison expressed disappointment over these tweets. But not everyone is impressed.

How have former players reacted?

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has lashed out at the ECB for not taking due diligence and doing a background check on a player before he made his international debut.

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“A few weeks ago, surely England would have known that Ollie Robinson was in their thoughts. You have to go through everything. These days on Twitter, social media it’s all there for everyone to see… He tweeted what he had tweeted in 2012. Yes, he was 18 but I do find that staggering that the ECB with everything, the resources that they have in their operation, they don’t go through everything about every player that you pick just to make sure you have got everything covered,” he told BBC.

Nasser Hussain, former England captain and a respected cricket commentator, said Robinson’s actions served a grim reminder to cricketers on how to use social media.

“…if you are going to wear T-shirts about online hate and online abuse and sexism and racism, then you can’t be doing this; it’s just not good enough, it’s just not on,” he told Sky Sports, before adding: “But I also think we are probably a bit of a cruel society if we don’t realise that an 18-year-old does make mistakes and he has made mistakes and he’s made it horribly wrong and he’s fronted does not make it right in any way; I’ve read the tweets, I’ve seen the tweets, they are horrible…”

Do these revelations put the spotlight on Yorkshire?

It surely does. Yorkshire, which has drawn considerable flak in recent times for not doing enough for inclusion in cricket, was the club Robinson was associated with when he made these tweets. Interestingly, when Yorkshire terminated his contract in 2014, it was not because of Robinson’s offensive rants on Twitter, but what they perceived as ‘unprofessional behaviour.’ In Robinson’s words, it was the desire to party and hang around with friends in Kent that proved to be his undoing. “I stayed there for a night, saw my mates the next day, then left Kent at 1am to get to training at 9am…it was an unsustainable lifestyle that I was trying to live,” he told BBC, before adding: “At first they just thought I was a really bad timekeeper, but as it went on they realised what I was doing.”

Robinson plays for Sussex currently and the club issued a stern statement. “His age does not excuse the content of these tweets in any way and he will now suffer the consequences of his actions.”

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