Michael Carberry, the former England opener, has lambasted the media’s portrayal of him when he made his England Test debut in 2010.
Carberry has spoken out against racism in cricket in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, and revealed how the media, when he made his England Test debut against Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2009/10, focussed on his colour rather than his journey.
“The media have a way of portraying black athletes,” he told The Cricket Badger podcast. “When I played for England, the first time in Chittagong, I had to do my first press conference. And you know, nothing was asked about my journey, how I got there – something that would inspire white, black, Asian, whoever … the journey, perseverance, patience.
“Na, na, na, [instead] ‘How does it feel to be the first black man to play for England this century?’ And I looked at the guy and said, ‘What on earth has that got to do with me playing for England?’ [He said], ‘Well, we did some research and we discovered that since Alex Tudor, you’re the only brown or black guy to play for England.’
“‘Right, so does that make me any less English?’ ‘[He said] No, no, no … we just wanted to … how does it make you feel?’ I said, ‘I’m just proud to achieve something I set out to do from age nine. My colour is irrelevant and you’re making it a point.’”
Carberry was particularly irked by the attempts to portray his England debut as a rags-to-riches story. “They go and find the worst pictures of where I lived to build this rags-to-riches story of the black athlete,” he said. “Now let me tell you something. I know my area wasn’t great, but my home certainly was. Two loving parents, loving home, clean, and within my budget, they gave me every opportunity they could to put me on the world stage and I achieved it.
“I had to drag him out on the balcony and say ‘Listen, let me ask you something mate. How much time have you spent in Black company?’ And he literally wet his pants.”
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“There’s no need to build a rags-to-riches story about every black athlete that comes through the door. They did the same to Anthony Joshua. They harp on about his drug possession charge; what about the fact that the guy is a fantastic person, boxer, and he’s our world champion? How about you focus on that? He had a negative, but he turned it into a positive. He’s one of the best people to look up to if you’re a young person, in my opinion. Never met him, but I like him.
“But they always want to [go] for the negative first. The media, how they portray people, particularly black athletes, it’s always surrounded by negatives. They always want to cut you down first, and then build. And it’s wrong. Focus on my journey, how I got there, what I went through, how I went past it and still managed to achieve.
“I went through two major illnesses as you know. Cancer doesn’t discriminate against me or you because we’re white or black – but I was able to kick its arse and come back stronger. Surely that’s inspiring [to everyone, irrespective of colour].”