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michael vaughan, racism in cricket, bbc

Racism in cricket: Michael Vaughan’s BBC interview

The issue of racism in cricket has reared its ugly head in recent months.

Allegations have come from high-profile players across the sport.

So picture this.

If you were asked on camera by a BBC interviewer to defend or denounce everything you’ve ever said, how would you fare?

Any comment that was apparently racist, homophobic, or demeaning to women, would be fed back to you.

And you’d be invited to explain what you were thinking when you wrote it or said it.

Well, that’s what former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan faced this weekend.

In an interview with journalist Dan Walker broadcast on Sunday morning.

For a man noted for hitting test centuries, how did he score?

It’s the perfect case study for one of our crisis management training courses.

Read on for our analysis.

A tug of war

I like Dan Walker as a presenter.

I like Michael Vaughan as a cricketer and commentator.

So this was a tug of war over behaviour, rather than personality or character.

And it focused on what Vaughan said to Azeem Rafiq.

Azeem’s allegations of racism against Yorkshire County Cricket Club have brought resignations and recriminations.

Vaughan did many things right in his interview.

Things at Pink Elephant Communications that we recommend.

Particularly when needing to clarify our views or clear the air.

1. Be proactive

michael vaughan, racism in cricket, be proactive

The fact that Vaughan agreed to the interview, or perhaps even asked for it, is the right first step.

If people are talking about you, it’s time to get on the front foot (to use a cricketing term) and have your say.

Otherwise, the chatter can become the accepted narrative.

2. Answer every question

racism in cricket, answer every question, michael vaughan

The audience will only believe you if you answer every question.

Some British Prime Ministers have made a career of dodging questions.

Boris Johnson and Theresa May are the most recent culprits.

And that only builds mistrust. 

3. Answer direct questions with direct answers

racism in cricket, pink elephant, answer direct questions

At one point in the interview, Dan asked about one particular tweet from a decade ago.

When queried if he would send it now, Vaughan replied:

“Absolutely not, absolutely not.

“Times have moved on and I regret that tweet.”

4. Say sorry – with Regret, Reason and Remedy

say sorry, racism in cricket, pen and paper

Asked about his part Rafiq’s accusation of racism at Yorkshire CCC, he replied:

“If in any way, shape or form I am responsible for his hurt, I apologise for that.”

He denied knowingly causing upset.

And he offered to be part of the solution through discussion and education.

5. Have your own say

racism in cricket, michael vaughan, have your own say

Vaughan moved beyond the allegations several times, to discuss his values.

He said:

“The biggest praise I got as England captain for six years was that I galvanised the group.

“I got them working as one.”

Doing the right thing

racism in cricket, doing the right thing, bill mcfarlan

He stayed calm throughout the interview.

He gave considered answers.

Watching at home, I saw a man who had some regrets but wanted to regain perspective.

And in this era of revisionism, where we’re often asked to consider actions of past years by today’s standards, that’s a hard balance to strike.

Critics of the BBC have already accused Walker and the corporation of feeding the “cancel culture”.

Where anybody who’s ever said anything ‘wrong’ is hung out to dry.

Or, as has happened to Vaughan, removing him from the BBC’s coverage of this winter’s Ashes cricket series in Australia.

In my view, Michael Vaughan did the right thing by agreeing to the interview.

And shining more light on his behaviour and attitudes by doing so.

Dealing with difficult questions

dealing with difficult questions, racism in cricket, pink elephant

We’re going to see more of this type of interview in the future.

Because of the heightened awareness of many of the issues now attracting attention.

So let’s just have more upfront honesty.

Starting with admitting that we’re all prejudiced.

It reminded me of visiting the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles years ago.

As we were about to explore the Holocaust, the tour guide said:

“If you’re prejudiced, walk through the door on the right.

“But if you’re not, take the door on the left.”

The audience froze for a moment until I stepped forward to the “Prejudiced” door.

The guide chuckled:

“You’d better follow him.

“Because that’s the only door that opens!”

I reported on Celtic matches as a Rangers supporter.

I covered political parties in elections despite voting for their opponents.

And I hold views on governments’ “deception”.

But still strive for balance.

That’s what I believe Michael Vaughan achieved in this interview.

And if so, that’s a success.


Bill McFarlan is co-founder and Executive Chairman of Pink Elephant.

You can read more about him here.


Racism in cricket blog by Bill McFarlan.
Racism in cricket blog edited by Colin Stone.
Photos in Racism in cricket blog courtesy of BBC Sport / gin soak, scotch egg, mailliw, Rwandaphotos, and HNM_1977 on Foter / and Pink Elephant Communications.

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