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August 21, 2009
Bilal Shafayat, the Nottinghamshire batsman, has been awarded substantial damages and been given an unreserved apology from Australian journalist David Penberthy, who published a racist remark following Shafayat's role as 12th man during the first Ashes Test at Cardiff.
Penberthy, a former editor of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, issued a 335-word public apology to Shafayat, after reprinting in full a splenetic text message from a friend following England's sensational draw in the first Ashes Test at Cardiff. As Monty Panesar and James Anderson clung on in an unbeaten tenth-wicket stand, the Australians took issue with Shafayat's repeated appearance in the middle, carrying spare sets of gloves, and Penberthy chose to publish the message he received on the Punch website.
"While I wrote the piece that the text message was clearly offensive - and had construed the piece as a self-deprecating look at the stupid behaviour of sports fans - the decision to publish this private SMS was of itself the truly stupid aspect of the article," Penberthy said. "This is because it was not only insulting and demeaning to a decent man and sporting professional in Bilal Shafayat, and anyone else who faces ridicule on the basis of their appearance."
"I was going to apologise at the time and shut the piece but I didn't, for two reasons. The first was that I didn't want to be accused of trying to whip the issue up to drive traffic to the website. And given that life doesn't come with a reverse button I thought that shutting the piece was a convenient out and that I should just wear it, as shown by our publication of many comments critical of the piece," he said.
"We have had a request from Bilal Shafayat through his lawyers for us to delete the piece from the website and we have now done that. I've also written to him personally and use this post to say publicly that I wish that life did come with a reverse button and that I'd never published this stupid joke."
Shafayat has donated his damages to the ECB's Chance to Shine initiative.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.