England cricket July 30, 2014

Wristband or wrist-banned?

Writing on the issue of Moeen Ali's 'Save Gaza' wristband issue, Ally Fogg, in the Guardian, says the sports bodies are being hypocritical in an attempt to keep politics out of sport

Writing on the Moeen Ali 'Save Gaza' wristband issue, Ally Fogg, in the Guardian, says the sports bodies are being hypocritical in an attempt to keep politics out of sport.

In times of great humanitarian crisis, there can be indifference but there cannot be neutrality. To do nothing, to say nothing is in itself a political act. In declaring which causes are appropriate for sports audiences and which are not, David Boon and the ICC have made a political statement of their own. It is not Moeen Ali's statement that is in the wrong, but theirs.

The ICC states categorically in its regulations that displaying political, religious or racial messages is not approved, but how does one decide which message is political and which is not, argues A Cricketing View.

It is worth reflecting on this idea of a thing not being "political". When is a thing political? And why does the ICC's Match Referee get to decide what is political and what isn't? A military charity raises money, it takes advantage of incentives to raise this money (tax breaks, for example). Supporting it might influence the public's opinion of an individual running for political office. Is it simply the case that we say a particular idea isn't political because we all broadly agree it? Are political things only those about which people might still want to have a debate? If so, shouldn't everything be open to politics?

Pavilion Opinions presents a similar point of view, and ponders the threads connecting a controversial MP, the anti-apartheid protests during the time of the D'Oliveira affair, and Andy Flower and Henry Olonga's 'death of democracy' protest against Robert Mugabe.

It's a murky, dirty, interconnected matrix of a world whose permanently fluctuating ills are inbred over decades and centuries. Sport and cricket cannot pretend they do not play or haven't played their part or that they are not firewood in the furnace of geopolitics. Flower, Hain, Mugabe, Skelton, Olonga and D'Oliveira are all interlinked, tenuously in some instances, but interlinked nonetheless.

In the context of all the above, banning a pair wristbands ranks fairly low on the list of establishment cover ups, but the ICC looks hypocritical for telling Ali to shut up about his choice of political gesture while allowing the England team to so overtly display their collective one.

Dennis Freedman argues an alternate view in his blog, saying that "cricket ground is not a parliament, a place for social issue debate or a medium for protest." If the need be, Freedman writes, ample opportunities exist for raising awareness for a cause outside the ground.