Ministers lash back at ‘disproportionate and absurd’ suspension of England cricketer Ollie Robinson


Ministers have today lashed back at the suspension of England cricket star Ollie Robinson for posting racist and sexist tweets nearly a decade ago.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this morning said the England and Wales Cricket Board had gone ‘over the top’ by suspending the bowler.

Meanwhile Conservative minister Zac Goldsmith shared his disapproval, saying the suspension was ‘completely disproportionate and absurd’.

It comes after the tweets – posted when Robinson was a teenager – were dredged up from 2012.

Robinson, who is now 27 and has apologised for his actions, will miss Thursday’s second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston and could face further punishment at the hands of the English Cricket Board (ECB).

But, in a post on Twitter, Mr Dowden today criticised the decision to suspend Robinson, saying: ‘Ollie Robinson’s tweets were offensive and wrong. They are also a decade old and written by a teenager.

‘The teenager is now a man and has rightly apologised. The ECB has gone over the top by suspending him and should think again.’

Meanwhile, Mr Goldsmith, the Minister of State for Pacific and the Environment, said: ‘He sent stupid tweets as a teenager, and has apologised profusely. What is to gain in trying to ruin his career over this?’ 

The ECB has suspended Robinson from all international cricket while the body investigates

The ECB has suspended Robinson from all international cricket while the body investigates

Conservative minister Zac Goldsmith (pictured) shared his disapproval at the bowler's suspension, saying it was 'completely disproportionate and absurd'.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) this morning said the England and Wales Cricket Board has gone 'over the top' with the suspension.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured right) this morning said the England and Wales Cricket Board has gone ‘over the top’ with the suspension. Meanwhile Conservative minister Zac Goldsmith (pictured left) shared his disapproval at the bowler’s suspension, saying it was ‘completely disproportionate and absurd’. 

He was joined in his criticism of the decision by fellow Tory, George Freeman.

The Mid-Norfolk MP said on Twitter: ‘Seriously? Posting inappropriate tweets when a teenager – for which he’s apologised – is now a disqualifying crime for playing cricket for your country? Seriously??

It came as last night the England cricket team announced they had suspended Robinson from all international cricket over the tweets, posted between 2012 and 2013.

Robinson apologised last week, while captain Joe Root described his debutant fast bowler’s behaviour as ‘unacceptable’.

Robinson will miss Thursday’s second Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston, with the potential for further punishment as the ECB’s integrity department try to establish whether he had any form of county contract when he posted the messages on social media in 2012 and 2013.

If he did, his case will be heard by the independent Cricket Discipline Commission. If not, the ECB will take charge.

Either way, he can still play for Sussex, with whom he has a separate employment contract.

The news came less than two hours after a drawn first Test at Lord’s, with Root admitting he ‘couldn’t believe it’ when he was told on Wednesday night about the tweets.

‘Ollie’s learned a hard lesson,’ said the England captain.  

Robinson's nine-year-old tweets served to completely undermine England's 'moment of unity'

Robinson’s nine-year-old tweets served to completely undermine England’s ‘moment of unity’

‘It’s unacceptable what he’s done. He’s fronted up to the dressing-room and the world, and shown remorse, but we’ve got to keep looking to learn and educate as much as we can, and make the game as diverse as possible. 

‘We’re not saying the team is perfect, but we’re always trying to improve.’

Asked what his reaction was when he was told about the tweets after the first day’s play, Root replied: ‘I couldn’t believe them, personally. I didn’t really know how to take it.

‘But I think the most important thing is that Ollie’s part of the dressing-room and we had to support him. We had to try and do everything we could to give him an opportunity to learn and to understand that he has to do better.’

Meanwhile, Root defended his team’s approach after his opposite number Kane Williamson boldly set them 273 in 75 to take a 1-0 lead to Thursday’s second Test at Edgbaston. 

With opener Dom Sibley making an unbeaten 60 from 207 balls, England reached 170 for three before hands were shaken.

‘It was a tricky wicket with a bit of up-and-down bounce, and we didn’t have the time we needed to go after that target,’ said Root. ‘It was the conditions, because we have the talent in the dressing-room to get the runs.

The 27-year-old was left ashamed after unearthing of historic racist and sexist tweets

The 27-year-old was left ashamed after unearthing of historic racist and sexist tweets

Joe Root labelled the tweets 'unacceptable' and he said he 'couldn't believe it' on Wednesday

Joe Root labelled the tweets ‘unacceptable’ and he said he ‘couldn’t believe it’ on Wednesday

‘On the surface, it looked like quite a generous declaration, but having played on that wicket for the best part for days, we knew it wasn’t going to be straightforward.’

Root said England eventually settled for a show of discipline after a first-innings performance in which ‘there were a lot of dismissals that weren’t good enough for Test cricket’.

Asked about England’s approach, Williamson was diplomatic. ‘I suppose they were trying to get a feel for the surface,’ he said. ‘If it wasn’t for that lost day, we would have seen a fantastic finish to what was a very good game of cricket.’



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