Giving people second chances will be key to solving the racism crisis that has engulfed English cricket, Ashley Giles
Giles, the managing director of England men's cricket, told a press conference on Sunday that many members of the Ashes touring party had sat up to watch Azeem Rafiq
's harrowing account before a UK parliamentary select committee of racist abuse he suffered while a player at Yorkshire and reflected long and hard on the issues raised by Rafiq's testimony.
"If zero tolerance means that there is no acceptance of racism and discrimination, absolutely, that's completely right," Giles said via Zoom from Australia. "But for me, if zero tolerance means that we cut people off, we don't give second chances, we don't give people the chance to rehabilitate, then I think we've got a problem. I fear if we take that route, then the gap may widen and not lessen."
Giles, the former England spinner, played alongside Michael Vaughan, who was dropped from BBC Test Match Special's commentary team for the Ashes in the wake of Rafiq's claim that he had once told a group of four Asian players at Yorkshire "there are too many of you lot, we need to do something about it".
Vaughan has repeatedly denied the allegation, including in an interview on Saturday in which he told Rafiq he was "sorry for the hurt he has gone through".
Giles said: "We all do make mistakes, and we will again, but we have to be able to tolerate and educate and rehabilitate... not giving people second chances, I'm not sure that's a healthy way forward for us because it's certainly not going to bring people forward to either share their positive or negative experiences and even bring more people forward to say, 'well, I just don't know, I don't know how to react in this environment or what to say'.
"We've got to call out and address it much more if we see it, because perhaps all of us in the past - and I'm not just talking about cricket - have let things go. And by calling them out, I don't mean we kick chairs and tables over and start a fight. We just make it very clear that those sort of behaviours aren't right in our dressing-rooms, in our environments."
Giles said he was "very excited" to be involved in a review of dressing-room culture, announced by the ECB last week as part of a game-wide action plan to tackle the issues raised by Rafiq's case.
He also welcomed the prospect of ongoing education - another commitment identified in the plan - saying: "I've been in the game 30 years, and in that time, I've not had, I think, one meaningful bit of training on the area of equality, diversity, and discrimination. That should be a lesson to all of us."
Giles said he would back Joe Root, the England Test captain, in halting play if any racist behaviour was detected among crowds watching the Ashes, which starts in Brisbane on December 8.
"I'd certainly trust Joe Root to do what's right," Giles said. "If he chose to bring the team into the middle of the field and stop the game while any incident is investigated then absolutely."
Of the current England group, Giles added: "My experiences of this dressing room are very positive. It feels like we have a real diversity in our playing group, a group that works incredibly well together, supports each other and in most instances - not all instances - appreciate each other's differences.
"But, saying that, we clearly need to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities to enjoy the game and play the game. And if listening to the lived experiences of Azeem and clearly they're the lived experience of others, we've got to do much better. And I'm sure we will do much better. Discrimination of any form just isn't acceptable.
"I'm sure all of us have made mistakes at times. I've been involved in the game over the last 30 years and I'm sure there will be incidents and things I've said that I wouldn't be proud of in a different time in a different context. And I'm sure cricket's not alone in those experiences but it's clear we need to keep creating environments where people can keep coming forward and sharing those experiences and we can talk about these issues. To do that, we need to educate, we need to share and I think we also need to tolerate."
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo