Ashley Giles warns of cancel culture in cricket after BBC axe Michael Vaughan from Ashes coverage

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Mark Butcher warns of cancel culture in cricket and insists Vaughan is 'not a racist' - PA
Mark Butcher warns of cancel culture in cricket and insists Vaughan is 'not a racist' - PA

England managing director Ashley Giles has increased the pressure on the BBC by suggesting their decision to axe Michael Vaughan risks encouraging a zero tolerance cancel culture in cricket.

The BBC stood down Vaughan from its Ashes plans after claims that he made a racially offensive comment within earshot of the Yorkshire players Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Ajmal Shahzad before a match in 2009.

Vaughan has strenuously denied that claim, but did offer an apology to Rafiq in a BBC Breakfast interview broadcast on Saturday morning if he was "involved in any way, shape or form in a dressing room that had a culture that wasn't inclusive for everyone."

Giles, currently in Australia with England's Ashes squad, fears the BBC's reaction to Vaughan could deter people sharing experiences of racism in cricket.

Asked specifically about the Corporation's decision, Giles said: "I can’t comment on what the BBC should do with one of their employees. But I think tolerance is really important. We all do make mistakes and we will again. But we have to be able to tolerate, educate and rehabilitate otherwise people aren’t going to open up and share their experiences and learn.

"But not giving people second chances, I’m not sure that’s a healthy way forward. It’s certainly not going to bring people forward to either share their positive or negative experiences."

Giles' comments were echoed by another former England international, Mark Butcher.

Butcher, who was captained by Vaughan at the end of his England Test career and is mixed race, admitted that Vaughan invited criticism with his social media posts but did not deserve to be branded a racist.

He told the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast: “Michael Vaughan is a lot of things. He takes a sort of Piers Morgan-lite Twitter personality thing ... and can make a bit of a plonker of himself on there at times. But I’ve played him with and against him for the best part of 15 years, and he’s not a racist in my view.

Of the specific claims, Butcher said: “There’s a very good chance... that guys would say things about the minority players playing for Yorkshire and not even realise they were doing it. So ingrained was it… why would anyone remember saying stuff like that?

“And he [Vaughan] might have said it. I might have said something to someone at some point in my career. I don’t know. [But] if every utterance that people make in a dressing room becomes something that you can potentially lose your job over, then there aren’t going to be many cricketers left.

“What happens with that is you end up with a back-and-forth, this claim and counter-claim that ‘you’re morally corrupt, you said this, you did that.’ And in the end, none of it can be proven and none of it does anything but create animosity.”

In his BBC interview, Vaughan maintained he "never heard racial language in the dressing room" at Yorkshire and said that he hoped to shake Rafiq's hand and move on.

"I can apologise if I was," he said. "My recollections of all the dressing rooms that I played in were inclusive to everyone, but I'm more than happy for people to come forward and say you know what, that wasn't the case."

Vaughan also said he "regrets many things", including some racially insensitive tweets which he says he would not write today. These including one questioning the lack of English speakers in London and another suggesting England spinner Moeen Ali should ask Muslims he does not know if they are terrorists. "I apologise deeply to anyone that I've offended with those tweets," Vaughan said. "Times have moved on and I regret those tweets. We all make mistakes and in my life I've made quite a few mistakes on Twitter, I apologise for that."

Rafiq suggested on Friday the alleged 2009 comment – which Vaughan vehemently denies making – had been "made bigger" than necessary. The 30-year-old, who had been meeting a Holocaust survivor as part of efforts to make amends over his own anti-Semitic messages, added: "I'm nobody to be forgiving someone."

In his BBC interview, Vaughan said he did not remember the incident or recognise the words it is claimed he used. "I just remember it clearly that I was proud as punch that we had four Asian players representing Yorkshire County Cricket Club,” he said. “I always felt that I was the person in the dressing room that really wanted everyone to feel included."

Monty Panesar, the former England off-spinner, said that the BBC had made a mistake in dropping Vaughan. "This feels deeply unethical - a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process being undertaken," he said. The BBC announced on Wednesday that Vaughan had been dropped from Test Match Special and its wider coverage of the sport amid an investigation into allegations he made the remark. BT followed by stating it was reviewing its commentary plans.

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