Greg Ritchie in trouble over racist remarks
Cricket Australia has conceded it is not appropriate for Greg Ritchie to speak at its cricket venues, after he admitted to using racially offensive and anti-Muslim language during a speech at the Gabba on Friday. Ritchie was booked as a guest speaker for a Gabba Members' Club lunch on the first day of the Test against South Africa and the Sunday Times reported that he drew laughter from the crowd while telling an anecdote in which he used the racist term "kaffirs", as well as while telling an offensive joke about Muslims.
A CA spokesman said that a senior official from Cricket Australia had contacted Ritchie who had confirmed the content of his speech. CA had made it clear to Ritchie that his comments were "absolutely unacceptable."
"We're obviously very disappointed in the comments made at the luncheon at the Gabba Members' Club on Friday. We've spoken to Queensland Cricket. We've spoken to the Gabba Members' Club that booked Greg. We've reminded the Members' Club of the obligations under the ICC anti-racism policy in international cricket. There's absolutely no place for racism in sport. We're fully supportive of the ICC's anti-racism policy on international cricket.
"As well as speaking to Queensland Cricket and Gabba members we are going to take the opportunity to write to all our states and venues to remind them of the obligations under the ICC anti-racism policy in terms of speakers and … if they book speakers, the policy under the code that speakers should be adhering to. Cricket Australia have admitted it's not appropriate for Greg to be speaking at our cricket venues at this time."
Ritchie defended his remarks by saying the anecdote, which concerned comments he claims were made during a match against West Indies in the 1980s, had been taken out of context. "I have told the story 500 times during the course of my speaking career," Ritchie told the Courier-Mail. "I do it verbatim, the remark is in no way at all derogatory to anyone if you hear the word in the context of the story I tell."
Ritchie, who played 30 Tests for Australia during the 1980s, is a regular on the speaking circuit and has courted controversy several times during his career. In 1997 he was suspended from commentary duties by Channel Nine after an incident in which he allegedly racially abused an Ansett Airlines employee, and in 2003 a planned appearance at the Adelaide Oval during a Test against India, in which he was going to perform his notorious "Mahatma Cote" caricature, was cancelled.
South Africa's team manager, Mohammed Moosajee, also condemned Ritchie's comments. "It is both disappointing and despicable for someone to make these racist comments," Moosajee said. "Racism has no place in society and in sport."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here