Sunday, August 13, 2006

Terrorist Comment on Amla Costs Jones’ Job

by Ismaeel Nakhuda - Arab News

JEDDAH, 9 August 2006 — The Australian cricket pundit Dean Jones was sacked on Monday as commentator for the Dubai-based TV channel TEN Sports after calling a bearded South African Muslim cricketer a “terrorist,” during live commentary of the second Test between South Africa and Sri Lanka.

South African television viewers were in uproar as Jones, 45, was heard live on television saying “the terrorist has got another wicket” when Hashim Amla took a catch putting Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkar out of the game in Colombo on Monday. Jones was in Sri Lanka participating in a commentary team covering the match.

A spokesman for TEN Sports said Jones had been fired following a complaint from Cricket South Africa (CSA). TEN Sports apologized to Amla, CSA and viewers across the world for the offense caused by the comment.

A disgraced Jones returned to Melbourne yesterday. Speaking to reporters there he said, “I waited four or five seconds and I just turned around and made a stupid, ridiculous off-the-wall comment that unfortunately was picked up in the background and, as television people always know, the microphone is always live.”

Jones, who himself is a former Test cricket player, said he had written an apology to Amla apologizing for the outburst. He added that he had also managed to speak to the Muslim cricketer. “I got hold of Hashim Amla and I spoke to him for a certain amount of time … I gave him my sincerest apologies and he was gracious enough to accept it. He said ‘I hope you get through this ugly situation that you are going through’.”

Earlier, Jones told reporters in Colombo that he had respect for the Muslim faith. “The irony is that I am great friends with most of the Pakistan team and they are all Muslims.”

Meanwhile, CEO of Cricket South Africa Gerald Majola welcomed the sacking. “We commend host broadcaster TEN Sports for immediately dismissing Jones and for making a public apology. We also accept and welcome TEN Sports’ stated commitment to create harmony within communities as a broadcaster.”

Switchboards of Cricket South Africa and SuperSport, that takes a feed of the broadcast to South African audiences, were jammed on Monday and Tuesday with angry viewers complaining about Jones’ remarks.

Speaking earlier Majola said, “This kind of insulting racial stereotyping has no place in cricket and must be stamped out swiftly.”

Majola added that the matter would be reported to the International Cricket Council, under whose auspices the match is being played. “The ICC has strongly condemned racism and we will be discussing the matter with them,” he said. Speaking about the incident earlier, Jones told reporters, “Everyone needs to get away from perpetuating the myth, publicly and privately, that beards associated with the Muslim faith are somehow suspicious, and I intend to do exactly that.”

Hashim Amla is a devout Muslim of Indian heritage with a beard who has negotiated with the South African team’s main sponsors, SA Breweries, not to wear the Castle Lager logo on his cricket gear. The South African — Sri Lanka match was broadcast live to South Africa, which is home to a sizeable Muslim community.

In a similar case in April 2004, the former Manchester United football manager Ron Atkinson resigned as a commentator for the British ITV television channel after he described a black footballer as a “lazy thick nigger.”

— With input from agencies