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James Anderson: England players committed to 'improving ourselves' in wake of Ollie Robinson row

ECB warn further action may be taken as more players are drawn into controversy

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
James Anderson says that England's players are committed to "improving ourselves as people", as the build-up towards Thursday's second LV= Insurance Test against New Zealand at Edgbaston continues to be overshadowed by the emergence of historic offensive posts on social media.
In the wake of Ollie Robinson's suspension for a series of derogatory tweets from 2012 and 2013, the ECB has indicated that further action may be taken by the board, after other players in the national set-up were found to have posted unsavoury content in the past, including one player who made racist remarks before turning 16.
An ECB spokesperson said: "Since we were alerted to offensive tweets last week, a number of historical social media posts by other individuals have been questioned publicly as well. There is no place for discrimination in our sport, and we are committed to taking relevant and appropriate action where required.
"Given the concerns which have been raised are clearly now broader than a single case, the ECB Board will discuss how we deal with issues over historical social media material in a timely and appropriate manner. Each case will be considered on an individual basis, looking at all the facts. We will assess cases with the ECB Board before making further statements."
Anderson, who will take over from Sir Alastair Cook as England's most-capped player if selected for his 162nd Test, admitted on Tuesday that there was a nervous atmosphere within the dressing-room, given the speed with which the issue has escalated, following the unearthing of Robinson's tweets on the opening day of his Test debut at Lord's last week.
"It is a difficult time," Anderson said. "As players we are trying to learn from this, and realise it's important to try to get educated around these issues. We continue to do that with the ECB and PCA [Professional Cricketers' Association], we've been doing workshops before the series to improve ourselves as people, basically. To try to make sure this doesn't happen."
To the ECB's embarrassment, the Robinson furore blew up on the same day that the team had lined up for a "moment of unity" before the start of play, wearing shirts denouncing discrimination on various grounds, including race, gender, sexuality, age and ability.
The ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison, reiterated the board's "zero tolerance" approach to such matters and Robinson, who made a public apology on what ought to have been the proudest day of his career, was suspended at the end of the match, pending an investigation.
"I think it's been accepted, he stood up in front of the group and apologised," Anderson said. "You could see how sincere and upset he was. As a group we appreciate he's a different person now. He's done a lot of maturing and growing since then and he's got the full support of the team."
Robinson's comments, which included the use of the N-word, as well as derogatory opinions about women and people of Asian heritage, were posted between April 2012 and June 2013, when he was 18 or 19 years old. And while Anderson admitted that the lines were "blurry" when it came to judging players for comments made when they were young and naive, he acknowledged that there was no place for such remarks in society.
"That language and the subjects are obviously not acceptable," he said. "Yes we do make mistakes, everyone does, and as people we've got to try improve and make sure this sort of stuff doesn't happen and make sure people are aware it's not acceptable.
"I remember being that age and you do make mistakes," he added. "You're very young and inexperienced. It's just a case of trying to make sure that, even at that age, we send a message that this is unacceptable language to use."
Anderson, who signed up for Twitter in 2009, acknowledged that one particular tweet of his from 2010 had come back to haunt him this week, after he cast potentially offensive aspersions about Stuart Broad's haircut. He acknowledged that the players would need to vet their comments with more care in the future.
"It's something we are definitely going to have to look at," Anderson said. "If there are any tweets from years ago, we do have to look at that and again learn from this and be better in the future, try and make sure we know it's unacceptable to use these sorts of phrases and language.
"If we educate people well enough, then that language and those tweets don't go out in the first place. The historical stuff, for me 10-11 years ago, I've certainly changed as a person. That's the difficulty. Things do change and you do make mistakes.
"We have started workshops through the PCA and ECB," he added. "The first one was on racism. It doesn't matter how old you are, you can never know too much. It's really important we keep doing this, keep buying into it, because it's hugely important our game is as inclusive as possible."
Anderson insisted, however, that the England team did not feel let down by Robinson's comments, despite the manner in which they had overshadowed the first Test, because he believed his remorse to be heartfelt.
"I wouldn't say let down, no. With the tweets coming 10 years ago, obviously there was initial shock there with the language that was used. But there was remorse. I think he's definitely changed as a person and he's definitely improved from this as well, learned from these mistakes I guess."
Robinson has received some unexpected support since his suspension, with Boris Johnson the UK prime minister weighing in on the subject, following an initial remark from Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the former England batting coach, Mark Ramprakash, decried the "irony" of the prime minister stepping into such a row, given that he himself has come under scrutiny in the past for derogatory comments, including about race and sexuality. Ramprakash added: "If I was Ollie Robinson, I am not sure I would want Boris Johnson involved and trying to support me."
Anderson, however, declined to comment on that development. "I think that's way above my pay grade to be honest," he said. "I don't get involved in that. People have obviously got their political views but that's nothing to do with us as a team."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket