LONDON – Controversial England batting legend Geoff Boycott made a grovelling apology on Tuesday for remarking he needed to “black up his face” to get a knighthood at an event last week.
The 76-year-old astonished his audience with his comment during a question-and-answer session in one of the intervals at last week’s first Test with the West Indies.
Boycott, who played a pivotal role in organising the 1982 England rebel tour of South Africa – when sporting links had been cut with the rest of the world because of the apartheid regime – said knighthoods had been bestowed on West Indian cricketers like “confetti”.
“Mine’s been turned down twice. I’d better black me face,” Boycott is reported to have said, according to a guest at the event cited by The Daily Mirror.
The guest at the event – which cost £300 (about R5 000) to attend – said the remark, though intended as a joke, was “crass” and went down like a “lead balloon”.
However, Boycott – who has overcome throat cancer in 2002 to become a popular and outspoken pundit on BBC Radio’s globally renowned Test Match Special – took to Twitter on Tuesday to unreservedly apologise.
“Speaking at an informal gathering, I was asked a question and I realise my answer was unacceptable,” he tweeted.
“I meant no offence, but what I said was clearly wrong and I apologise unreservedly.
“I have loved West Indian cricket my whole life, and have the utmost respect for its players.”
Tweet 1 of 3: Speaking at an informal gathering I was asked a question and I realise my answer was unacceptable...
Tweet 2/3: I meant no offence but what I said was clearly wrong and I apologise unreservedly..
Tweet 3/3: I have loved West Indian cricket my whole life and have the utmost respect for its players.
The BBC would not comment on whether he would continue to play a part in the ongoing West Indies three-match Test series, although they did issue a statement welcoming his apology.
“He has rightly apologised unreservedly for these clearly unacceptable comments,” a BBC spokesperson said.
West Indies greats like Viv Richards, Garfield Sobers and Curtly Ambrose have been knighted, while the last England cricketer to be knighted was Ian Botham – no stranger to controversy himself – in 2007.
Boycott has always contended the reason he has not been knighted is because of his conviction in France – firstly in 1996 and confirmed on appeal in 1998 – for assaulting former girlfriend Margaret Moore.
A durable but unspectacular opening batsman, Boycott played 108 Tests, scoring 8 114 runs with 22 centuries at an average of 47.72.