Nottinghamshire batter Joe Clarke has apologised for his involvement in a WhatsApp group chat that, according to a judge, consisted of a “pathetic, sexist game”.
Details of the chat emerged during the trial of Clarke’s former Worcestershire teammate Alex Hepburn, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of raping a woman in 2017.
Clarke was not suspected of an offence but was found to have been involved in the group in which he and others played out a sexual-conquest game that the presiding judge said “demeaned women and trivialised rape”.
The 25-year-old was subsequently fined by the ECB for bringing the game into disrepute and has never played for England. But after his appointment as England men’s managing director of cricket, Rob Key suggested that Clarke could be selected, stating that “you can’t penalise people forever in life”.
Clarke has been subject to criticism on social media in recent months, facing the accusation that he has not shown remorse for his actions. “I feel like that was a long time ago and I don’t want to keep going back to that,” Clarke told journalists prior to the start of the summer when asked about the WhatsApp group.
But in an interview with The Telegraph, published on Tuesday, Clarke admitted to feelings of “embarrassment and shame” for his involvement in the WhatsApp group.
“I have done a lot of reflecting,” Clarke said. “It is a feeling of embarrassment really. Regretful for being part of it. It does not reflect the person I am now. It is embarrassment and shame that I was involved in what was a terrible thing.
“It upsets me seeing it [the WhatsApp game] now so I completely understand why people get upset looking at it. It is terrible to look at. It was completely wrong.
“It is not something I have forgotten about at all. Although I’ve not talked about it publicly I have had a lot of conversations in private with the club here and my family, with women that I am friends with. I have tried to concentrate on my cricket but it is something I have talked about a lot and had conversations in private about learning from this and making sure I am a better person now.”
Clarke also discussed the victim, with whom he had consensual sex before going to the bathroom to be sick and pass out. Later that same night, Hepburn raped her.
“I feel like I let her down,” Clarke said. “She was ultimately in my company and relied on me for her safety and I did not provide that. I feel like I let her down and I hope that she has found happiness that she deserves now and has managed to move on.”
Clarke reflected on the criticism he has received on social media.
“It has been more prominent the last few months in terms of the media and social media. I understand that. I have been pretty quiet talking about this. Initially I was quite scared to talk about it. I tried to avoid it and let the cricket do the talking but of course to be sitting here talking about it is good. It needs to happen and I have wanted to do it for a while. I’m happy I have the chance now and say how sorry I am for the involvement in all of it.”