Robinson tweets spark ‘cancel culture’ row

Shamed: Other celebrities have caused controversy in their younger days.

Should a person’s racist past be forgiven? Yesterday, as a second cricketer was linked with offensive posts, many called for punishment. But some say we should accept that people can change.

Professional sports are dominated by young men, mostly in their teens and 20s, earning mind-boggling salaries, placed under constant scrutiny. It is perhaps unsurprising that so many of these young men find themselves caught up in scandals.

So when England cricketer Ollie Robinson was suspended on Sunday by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over historical Twitter posts that used racist and sexist language, it seemed like a familiar story.

Now a second cricketer has been accused of writing racist posts in his youth. Cricket journal Wisden has not revealed the identity of the player.

The cases have attracted attention because of an intervention by cabinet minister Oliver Dowden, who said the decision to suspend Robinson went “over the top”.

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson confirmed he was “supportive” of Dowden’s comments. Former England cricketer Mark Ramprakash said Johnson’s involvement was “unwelcome” and that support should be shown for the targets of Robinson’s racist posts.

Some think individuals should be allowed to leave their racist pasts behind them.

Others think if a person wants to be forgiven they have to make amends. Another former England cricketer, Michael Carberry suggests Robinson could devote himself to driving racism out of cricket.

Should a person's racist past be forgiven?

Bowled over

Yes. People are bound to make mistakes in their youth. Punishing people too harshly is not the best way to ensure change. We should strive to create a more understanding culture in which people are not punished for views they held years ago.

No. Former racists must take action. We cannot just give people like Liam Neeson and Ollie Robinson the benefit of the doubt that they have examined and abandoned their previous views. Those people need to prove it by making amends.

You Decide

  1. Do you ever worry that the things you post on social media could someday come back to haunt you?

Activities

  1. Write a short story about a person whose life is turned on its head when some old social media posts they wrote are exposed, then share it with the person next to you and compare your ideas.

Some People Say...

“Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle, Old Age a regret.”

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881), British statesman

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Most people agree that when we are young we are more likely to make reckless decisions. The part of the brain that is responsible for making decisions is the prefrontal cortex, which is also the part that is slowest to develop. Adult brains are wired to like taking risks: a rush of hormones gives us a natural high when we take a chance on something. For teenagers, this high is much more intense than it is for adults, making them more likely to take risks without thinking about the consequences.
What do we not know?
There is some debate over whether or not a person’s character is fixed in their teenage years. Some neuroscientists argue that in our teenage years, connections stop forming between our brain cells, and instead the brain starts to delete unnecessary connections, meaning that our habits and abilities remain fixed. But others think the brain remains very malleable throughout our lives, meaning that we can always change the way we are.

Word Watch

Scrutiny
Critical observation or examination.
Ollie Robinson
A 27-year-old cricketer who played his first Test match for England in June 2021.
England and Wales Cricket Board
The organisation that governs English and Welsh cricket.
Wisden
A cricket reference book, published annually, whose full title is the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
Oliver Dowden
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. This role gives him considerable influence over the way professional sports are conducted in the UK.
Mark Ramprakash
A former professional cricketer who played for England in the 1990s. Since 2014, he has been the batting coach for the England team.
Michael Carberry
A former professional cricketer who played for England between 2010 and 2014.

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