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Get tough on players too


Michael JehIf white line fever is used as a pathetic defence for cricketers who have brain snaps on the field of play, what do we call spectators who make racist, homophobic or similarly vile comments? Black C Syndrome? I refer here to the spectator who racially abused Joffra Archer in New Zealand recently.

What’s interesting is the immediate (and unequivocal) support for a call to have this creature banned for life if his identity is ever discovered. It begs the question does it not – what makes his offence worthy of a life ban when a player found guilty of a similar offence gets off with a minor suspension?

Is this yet another form of white line fever? Where sins committed on the green (grassy) side of the white line are viewed through a much more forgiving prism than if it was uttered from the grandstand?

Rugby codes in Australia are grappling with this philosophical question every weekend. When players assault each other in their workplace despite video evidence and the presence of police at the ground, players are not charged with assault. They are often feted for their toughness. But if a spectator was involved in a similar incident, the fearless police would descend like vultures and possibly even lay charges.

Racism occupies a special category in Australian sport. There is incessant racist sledging in almost every professional (male) sport every single day but players rarely report it. But if they are racially abused by a spectator or trolled online, it is taken personally and allegedly causes enormous hurt. So why is it more hurtful when it comes from a total stranger rather than an opponent?

Steve Waugh, he who invented the art of ‘mental disintegration’ under the canopy of playing cricket The Australian Way was once sledged by a man sitting high up in the empty stands at the Gabba during a Sheffield Shield game. His reaction to that lone voice belied his own insouciance, nay his own personal signature, on the art form that is sledging (abuse). Apparently it caused him great angst when the sledging was delivered from 200 metres away from a complete stranger but if it came from under the lid at short leg, that’s less offensive or hurtful?

So, back to the Archer case study. If this racist man is deemed worthy of a life ban, how then will we judge a cricketer who abuses an opponent? Surely the hurt must be felt even more keenly when it comes from someone you know. It might even be someone you play with in a T20 franchise team, like James Pattinson’s homophobic slur to a Brisbane Heat stablemate. Does that betrayal not cut to the bone?

Professional cricketers now undergo extensive education and training in such matters. I know this for a fact. I facilitate these sessions for professional sports including cricket. Unlike the rogue spectator who may be an ignorant bigot (which is no excuse), cricketers from a very young age are educated about respectful behaviours. So why then does the bloke on the grassy hill, full of beer and bad manners, get threatened with a life ban but the cricketer who knows his opponent and has been “educated” not suffer a more draconian penalty?

Let’s look at recent cases in the last 20 years or so. We had the Symonds-Harbajhan incident that was eventually swept under the carpet. Just before that, Darren Lehmann called the Sri Lankans “black c***s” and has since gone on to prestigious coaching careers. Sarfraz Ahmed recently admitted to some awful comments about black South Africans and copped a four match ban.

England’s Craig Overton racially vilified a Sussex batsman in county cricket. The ECB’s independent disciplinary panel controversially decided on a level one punishment for abusive language – rather than a level three for abuse related to “race or national origin”. Overton incurred an automatic two-match ban because of two previous minor offences on his record. No talk of a life ban here!

Cricket continues to live in a parallel universe where it’s one rule for male players and another rule for everyone else. A female cricketer copped a harsh one year ban in Australia for using her phone during a match that was rained out. Her punishment included a complete ban from all cricket. But the Cape Town Sandpapergate trio were allowed to play club cricket during their international exile.

If they ever catch the Archer villain, he might just break with tradition and simply admit that he is racist. But if he has half a brain, which is debatable, he should just take his cues from his on-field heroes. Frustration. Out of character. Drunk. Under pressure. And unless he snorted a line of cocaine prior to his racist invective, he is on the wrong side of white line fever.

If white line fever is used as a pathetic defence for cricketers who have “brain snaps” on the field of play, what do we call spectators who make racist, homophobic or similarly vile comments? Black C Syndrome? I refer here to the spectator who racially bused Joffra Archer in New Zealand recently.

What’s interesting is the immediate (and unequivocal) support for a call to have this creature banned for life if his identity is ever discovered. It begs the question does it not – what makes his offence worthy of a life ban when a player found guilty of a similar offence gets off with a minor suspension?

Is this yet another form of white line fever? Where sins committed on the green (grassy) side of the white line are viewed through a much more forgiving prism than if it was uttered from the grandstand?

Rugby codes in Australia are grappling with this philosophical question every weekend. When players assault each other in their “workplace”, despite video evidence and the presence of police at the ground, players are not charged with assault. They are often feted for their toughness. But if a spectator was involved in a similar incident, the fearless police would descend like vultures and possibly even lay charges.

Racism occupies a special category in Australian sport. There is incessant racist sledging in almost every professional (male) sport every single day but players rarely report it. But if they are racially abused by a spectator or trolled online, it is taken personally and allegedly causes enormous hurt. So why is it more hurtful when it comes from a total stranger rather than an opponent?

Steve Waugh, he who invented the art of “mental disintegration” under the canopy of playing cricket The Australian Way was once sledged by a man sitting high up in the empty stands at the Gabba during a Sheffield Shield game. His reaction to that lone voice belied his own insouciance, nay his own personal signature, on the artform that is sledging. Apparently it caused him great angst when the sledging was delivered from 200 metres away from a complete stranger but if it came from under the lid at short leg, presumably at his behest, that’s less offensive or hurtful?

So back to the Archer case study – if this racist man is deemed worthy of a life ban, how then will we judge a cricketer who abuses an opponent? Surely the hurt must be felt even more keenly when it comes from someone you know. It might even be someone you play with in a T20 franchise team, like James Pattinson’s homophobic slur to a Brisbane Heat stablemate.

Professional cricketers now undergo extensive education and training in such matters. I know this for a fact. I facilitate these sessions for professional sports including cricket. Unlike the rogue spectator who may be an ignorant bigot (which is no excuse), cricketers from a very young age are educated about respectful behaviours. So why then does the bloke on the grassy hill, full of beer and bad manners, get threatened with a life ban but the cricketer who knows his opponent and has been “educated” not suffer a more draconian penalty?

Let’s look at recent cases in the last 20 years or so. We had the Symonds/Harbajhan incident that was eventually swept under the carpet. Just before that, Darren Lehmann called the Sri Lankans “black c***s” and has since gone on to prestigious coaching careers. Sarfraz Ahmed recently admitted to some awful comments about black South Africans and copped a four match ban.

England’s Craig Overton racially vilified a Sussex batsman in county cricket. The ECB’s independent disciplinary panel controversially decided on a level one punishment for abusive language – rather than a level three for abuse related to “race or national origin”. Overton incurred an automatic two-match ban because of two previous minor offences on his record. No talk of a life ban here!

Cricket continues to live in a parallel universe where it’s one rule for male players and another rule for everyone else. A female cricketer copped a harsh one year ban in Australia for using her phone during a match that was rained out. Her punishment included a complete ban from all cricket. But the Cape Town Sandpapergate trio were allowed to play club cricket during their international exile.

If they ever catch the Archer villain, he might just break with tradition and simply admit that he is racist. But if he has half a brain, which is debatable, he should just take his cues from his on-field heroes. Frustration. Out of character. Drunk. Under pressure. And unless he snorted a line of cocaine prior to his racist invective, he is on the wrong side of white line fever.

Michael Jeh is a Brisbane-based first-class cricketer

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