Students have expressed outrage following Brasenose’s annual Sports Dinner, held on Thursday 28 February, after the speaker, ex-cricketer Don Topley, allegedly read out a “inappropriate and misogynistic” poem.
The poem that Topley is reported to have read is titled ‘Never Trust a Cricketer’. The entire poem can be found here. (The website requires that visitors be 18+.)
One couplet reads: “Then there’s the real stonewaller, girls, he knows what he’s about; and if you let him settle in, its hard to get him out!”
One Brasenose student in attendance, Sophie Brookes, told Cherwell: “[Topley] asked the audience if we knew what sport is currently the fastest growing in popularity – ‘girl’s cricket.’ Then, without any further comment, he goes on to read the poem.
“A few girls walked out halfway through because they felt so uncomfortable. The whole experience was worsened by his rambunctious way of speaking and the unashamed expressiveness and pride with which he read his poem.”
Another student said: “I walked out with a few friends and we only came back when he was finished. As we all left, there seemed a general consensus that the poem had been in very poor taste. Lots of the women there felt their achievements undermined, and lots of the men felt very embarrassed that [Topley] was representing sports.”
Topley was reportedly invited to speak by a Brasenose JCR member who was an alumnus of the same secondary school as the sportsman. The JCR Sports Representative told Cherwell: “The speech was meant to be on his sporting experiences and career, I didn’t know about the poem until it happened.
“I apologise if anyone was offended by the content of the speech, it was never my intention and at Brasenose we would never support misogynistic behaviour under any circumstance.”
It is believed that no college members were aware of the contents of the speech. Cherwell has contacted Brasenose for comment.
On this matter, Sophie Brookes stated: “It does worry me that the speech wasn’t read by someone before. That said, clearly no one anticipated this and the speaker is in no way a reflection of attitudes within the college.”
Another Brasenose student present at the dinner, Maya Misra, told Cherwell: “It’s not an issue in the sense that Brasenose condoned it but that there wasn’t a vetting process and it speaks to the laddish sports culture that still exists.”
She described the Principal of the college, John Bowers, who was at the dinner, as looking “so uncomfortable”.
Dan Topley told Cherwell that he is unaware of any allegations that have been made against him.