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Geoffrey Boycott: still in the commentary seat

The unacceptable face of Geoffrey Boycott

FORMER YORKSHIRE and England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott has been admired for years for his straight bat and innings-building concentration. He’s never been admired for his views on personal political subjects.

In 1998, Ms Margaret Moore alleged that Boycott had punched her several times in the face and upper body and had tried to hold her down. Boycott was charged and tried in France – and convicted. Boycott had tried to establish she was a hysterical psychopath and explained away her injuries by stating that she had fallen over. He claimed that the trial itself was farcical and. Journalists suggested it was his defence which had been wayward, not the actual trial and the Judge found his Defence anything but compelling. Boycott went on to lose and appeal against the judgement.

Boycott lost most of his cricket commentary contracts after that business, but public sympathy for him when he contracted and then recovered from throat cancer rehabilitated him. He currently commentates on Test matches for the BBC.

Now Boycott has fallen into a second controversy. He participated in a Q&A event hosted by Sky Sports presenter Gary Newbon and held in Birmingham during the recent Test match between Britain and the West Indies at Edgbaston. During the Q&A event Boycott, when discussing the fact that he had not received a knighthood, alleged that knighthoods were handed out to West Indies cricketers “like confetti”. He went on to say that he should perhaps “black up” (colour his face black) to receive a knighthood.

This is an astonishingly racist comment, implying that knighthoods are handed out on the basis of colour – and that a person’s colour is, literally, colour rather than part of their origin. There has been a massive outcry, which forced Boycott to apologise for what he called (in retrospect) a clearly “unacceptable” comment. He added that he loves West Indian cricket and has the utmost respect for West Indian players. Cow dung.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Waheed Saleem was at the Q&A and heard Boycott’s comments. He told BBC Sport he was “disgusted” and “gobsmacked”. In contrast, the BBC has accepted Boycott’s “unreserved” apology and is to retain him on its Test Match commentary team: have they learned nothing from the Clarkson business?

No amount of apology will put this right. Boycott did not just make a slip of the tongue: his spontaneous comment revealed his views. They are unacceptable in a public figure. They are indicative of the racism of the establishment in this country and the hard work we all have to do to root it out. They are contemptible when held by such an excellent cricketer who should be setting an example, not undermining those who work against racism, including racism in sport.

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