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England to reaffirm commitment to 'improve society through sport' before Edgbaston Test

Players will participate in another 'moment of unity' as ECB investigate unsavoury social media histories

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
England will reaffirm their commitment to making cricket a more representative and inclusive sport by wearing anti-discrimination t-shirts in another 'moment of unity' on the morning of the second Test at Edgbaston.
The move comes at the end of a troubling week for the sport which saw Ollie Robinson suspended from international cricket pending an investigation into offensive tweets he sent as a teenager and further players' social media histories come under scrutiny.
The ECB released a statement on Tuesday evening confirming it would take "relevant and appropriate action" and that its board would "discuss how we deal with issues over historical social media material in a timely and appropriate manner", following the unearthing of other unsavoury posts from players in the national set-up, including members of the current Test squad.
Robinson's suspension has dominated the front pages of British newspapers as well as back, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson confirming his agreement that the measure was "over the top" following an intervention from Oliver Dowden, the minister for digital, culture, media and sport.
Joe Root, England's captain, admitted in his pre-match press conference on Wednseaday that it had been an "uncomfortable week" for his team and that they had "made mistakes", but reiterated his intentions to "improve society through the sport".
"Look at what we set out to do at the start of the summer: we started the [Lord's Test] with a moment of unity and wearing those anti-discrimination t-shirts and that is the current feeling within our dressing room and something that we're very committed to. Moving forward as a side that is something we want to do: we want to make positive change in our sport [and] we want to make it a better place.
"Of course, there's been some uncomfortable things [that have] come to light over the past week and we have to own that and we have to accept that, but ultimately as a side, we have to keep trying to find ways of bettering our game and bettering society through cricket.
"We will continue to wear those shirts and continue to keep finding ways to educate ourselves as players and as a group, and we will continue to find ways of bettering our sport and ways to action that, this summer and beyond. That's very much how I feel and how the group feels.
"We've spent a lot of time talking about things, whether that be this week or over the last year in particular: how can we shape the game better? How can we make a real difference as a group of players? We're still very much committed to that, even in light of what's happened. That's not going to sway us. We do feel strongly about this and we will keep trying to make a difference within our sport."
England led the first 'moment of unity' on the outfield at Lord's on the morning of the first Test, wearing t-shirts - displaying anti-discrimination messages on the back and 'Cricket is a game for everyone' on the front. Men's counties and women's regional teams have followed suit on the opening day of the County Championship, the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and the Vitality Blast.
"We've committed to making a positive change in our sport," Root added. "Everything that this group of players and how we feel about things doesn't change because of what's happened. We accept that we're not perfect and that we've made mistakes as a lot of young people have.
"We have to own that, we have to be strong with that, and we have to stay together as a group of players and make sure that we continue to keep trying to improve the sports and improve society through the sport. If we can do that and keep trying to spread that message then a lot of good can come off the back of some bad stuff that's happened in the last week."
Tom Latham, New Zealand's stand-in captain, said that his side's approach and preparation was unaffected by the off-field distraction. "We'll certainly be treating [England] as we normally do," he said. "They're professional cricketers and we know that they'll be ready to go tomorrow [despite] everything that's been happening over the last week or so. We certainly won't be taking them lightly, that's for sure.
"From our point of view as professional sportsmen, we're role models to people and it's important that we are careful in terms of what we put on social media and what not. It's a game that's inclusive and we try not to discriminate against anyone. We do have to be careful and it's something that will be looked at in the future I'm sure."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98