SAMUEL Johnson, the great lexicographer, was wont to visit two sisters in 18th century London. On one occasion, the ladies congratulated him on his diligence in omitting all ‘ghastly’ rude words from his recently published dictionary. ‘Ladies,’ Dr Johnson replied, ‘I congratulate you on your diligence in looking them up.’ The earnest siblings, suitably embarrassed, dropped the subject.
It is a reminder that if someone is determined to find offence, there’s nothing you can do.
A troll took great pains to trawl through the Twitter account of cricketer Ollie Robinson, who made his Test debut for England at Lords last Wednesday. Sure enough, he eventually found items of interest – some ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ tweets from 2012 and 2013, nine and eight years ago, when Robinson was a somewhat troubled teenager. The ‘offended’ party proceeded to release them on the biggest day of Robinson’s sporting life. (I distinguish sporting from private life – Robinson has recently become a proud father.)
At close of play, and on the brink of tears, Robinson read a statement, clearly drafted by his England cricket bosses, ‘deeply regretting my actions’, having apologised to his teammates in the England dressing room. In a balanced world, in a sport which bequeathed us the term ‘fair play’, that would and should have been the end of the matter.
However, it says all you need to know about the long march of the woke grievance industry through UK sport, led by organisations such as Kick it Out, that it wasn’t. At the conclusion of the match – in which Robinson, as it happens, played remarkably well in trying circumstances – the England cricket establishment remained in virtue-signalling mode, at once contrite and offensive. Robinson has now been suspended from all international cricket pending a disciplinary investigation.
Let that sink in. A player is prevented from representing his country, and is now under formal investigation, for historic adolescent comments to his mates that would never have resurfaced had they not been assiduously sought out. In other words, to appease the race-baiters he has been thrown under the bus for historic thought crimes.
If there was a depressing predictability about the suits at cricket HQ caving in to woke cancel culture, more – much more – might have been expected from England’s captain, Joe Root. The victimhood lobby extends its influence exponentially with compliant insiders ‘downstairs’, close to the players. Such people are willing to sacrifice loyalty towards teammates or supporters on the altar of expediency if it makes their own well-remunerated position more secure. Consider England soccer manager Gareth Southgate across town at Wembley, chiding fans for (understandably) booing his team’s continued ‘taking a knee’.
Jo Root could have said enough is enough. He could have described as ‘not acceptable’ (the words he applied to Robinson after the match) the malicious timing of the troll. This would have meant displaying integrity, something Yorkshiremen were once renowned for. Alas, it seems that Mr Root saw which way the wind was blowing in the corridors of power and chose to go with it. Or more likely, he meekly carried out instructions from above.
To his credit, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has called out the England Cricket Board for its ‘over the top’ treatment of Robinson, and his stance has been backed by the Prime Minister. But the pushback against the career-threatening public shaming of ‘wrong-think’ needs to gather pace. Such ritual humiliation is egregious enough on the university campus, or in the public and corporate sectors. If we can’t kick it out of the sporting arena altogether, let’s at least consign it to the long grass.