COMMENT:

It's easy to talk about doing the right thing when the heat's not on. Or, as young people might say, virtue signalling is easy as long as it's convenient.

Virtue signalling, for those not initiated in the language of social media, is a heavy-handed display of moral values; saying politically correct stuff in order to make yourself look good. When someone says you're virtue signalling, it's not a compliment.

The recent furore about Scott Kuggeleijn taking his place in the Black Caps has stirred up a lot of what some people would call virtue signalling. Kuggeleijn you'll remember, was found not guilty of rape in 2017.

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His inclusion in the national team has inspired heated debate online. And it's timely to be reminded about some recent virtue-signalling classics:

"If they say no, it means no."

"Consent is ongoing - if in doubt stop and ask."

"Do not pressure them or try to talk them into it."

These lines weren't spouted by those critical of Kuggeleijn's inclusion in the Black Caps. They're straight out of guidelines for young professional cricketers released back in October, by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, with Cricket New Zealand at their side. The CPA was emphatic and clear on the subject of sexual consent, using the kind of language four months ago that in the past week might been brushed off as virtue signalling.

The guidelines are sound - the kind of principles you'd want every young man to be aware of. And nowhere in there does it say: "As long as a jury doesn't find you guilty, you're OK."

At the time of their release, back in October, New Zealand Cricket's public affairs manager Richard Boock supported the players' association on Twitter, throwing in a suitable hashtag for good effect: #NoMeansNo. No means no - a straightforward message; the key to sexual consent.

Boock, and the organisation in whose name he speaks, have been more quiet on the subject of sexual consent in recent weeks. No now means "no comment".

"It is impossible to sit in judgement of many of these claims and counter-claims without starting to relitigate elements of the trial in isolation," Boock told the Herald this week.

It's less convenient for them now, with the public stirred by Kuggeleijn's appearance in the side. Back in October, before the cricket season had started and with the actual trial buried even further in the past, it was easier to make the right noises.

This is not about piling on to Kuggeleijn, nor relitigating his case.

Regardless, we should all be allowed the chance to assess what we've done wrong in life, acknowledge it and try to make amends. Kuggeleijn should get that opportunity and be able to play for the Black Caps.

This is about New Zealand Cricket. Many of us who hope to see NZC address this issue publicly would be equally happy to see the paceman in the side.

Kuggeleijn could be part of some attempt by Cricket New Zealand and the players' association to belatedly follow through on the principles in those guidelines. Surely NZC could talk publicly about the lessons from the Kuggeleijn case or what he can do to help other players meet the standards of the guidelines. We hear so much from modern sports organisations about pathways for players, how about fronting on that now? Otherwise, what's the point of pathways - and what's the point of guidelines? Was it just lazy virtue signalling?

The problem for NZ Cricket has gone beyond what the public thinks of their player, but rather the message that the organisation seemingly doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Cricket NZ is in the audience business, and many of their audience are young men - and, increasingly, young women. Right now, they have an opportunity to talk to that audience about a crucial issue in Kiwi society.

What should they say? I don't know, I didn't write the guidelines. But it's not something Cricket New Zealand or the CPA can easily duck under.

What's your cool October virtue signalling worth if you won't revisit it in the heat of February?

And what's the message for other young men playing cricket - or, more worryingly, the masses following it? Make the right noises when it's easy, and keep your mouth shut later? Nope. Don't take the easy road.

Well, that's enough virtue signalling from me...