Nottinghamshire batsman Bilal Shafayat has accepted an apology from Australian journalist David Penberthy following the publication of an article which featured offensive comments about his appearance.
Nationwide News have agreed to pay significant damages and costs as well as offering an unreserved apology.
Bilal has generously decided to donate the damages to the Cricket Foundation's Chance to Shine initiative. The offending article has also been removed from the website on which it was published.
The apology offered to Bilal reads as follows:
A few weeks ago I made a stupid and offensive joke in a piece written in the immediate aftermath of the drawn opening Ashes Test.
It involved the alleged time-wasting tactics of the English side in the dying moments of the game, and referred to a private SMS exchange with a friend of mine which joked about the appearance of 12th man Bilal Shafayat.
While I wrote the piece that the text message was clearly offensive – and had construed the piece as a self-deprecating look at the stupid behaviour of sports fans – the decision to publish this private SMS was of itself the truly stupid aspect of the article.
This is because it was not only insulting and demeaning to a decent man and sporting professional in Bilal Shafayat, and anyone else who faces ridicule on the basis of their appearance.
I was going to apologise at the time and shut the piece but I didn’t, for two reasons. The first was that I didn’t want to be accused of trying to whip the issue up to drive traffic to the website. And given that life doesn’t come with a reverse button I thought that shutting the piece was a convenient out and that I should just wear it, as shown by our publication of many comments critical of the piece.
We have had a request from Bilal Shafayat through his lawyers for us to delete the piece from the website and we have now done that.
I’ve also written to him personally and use this post to say publicly that I wish that life did come with a reverse button and that I’d never published this stupid joke.
We’re not going to invite comment on this post because I don’t want it to be a traffic-driving exercise, nor to open up a debate about whether the apology is warranted or not. I think it’s totally warranted and it’s offered sincerely and without reservation to Mr Shafayat and anyone else who found the piece distressing.