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UK News

Cricketer Azeem Rafiq calls out ‘institutional racism’ after Gary Ballance admits using racial slur


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Cricketer Azeem Rafiq has responded after his former teammate admitted using a racial slur against him by saying the problem is “not really about the words of certain individuals” but rather “institutional racism”.

The 30-year-old, who played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club in two spells between 2008 and 2018, previously accused the club of “institutional racism” more than a year ago.

Former England cricketer Gary Ballance said he regretted using the slur against Rafiq.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday, Rafiq said: “I’m not intending to say very much until the select committee hearing later this month. However, I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals.

“This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and club desperately need reform and change.”

Responding to a tweet questioning whether “certain individuals should be educated as well”, Rafiq said: “The system & environment changes that will organically educate & bring through a new generation that make this the beautiful game it should be”.

His allegations against the club have begun to gather momentum in recent days with several sponsors announcing they are cutting ties with the club and senior politicians calling for action.

More on Azeem Rafiq

It comes after revelations by ESPNCricinfo over the contents of an independent report into the matter.

Rafiq had been the victim of “racial harassment and bullying” at the club, the report found.

It has since emerged that the panel determined repeated use of the word “P***” against the spinner was delivered “in the spirit of friendly banter”.

It led to an apology being issued to Rafiq, though nobody was disciplined.

Azeem Rafiq
Image: Azeem Rafiq previously accused the Yorkshire County Cricket Club of “institutional racism”

Ballance, who played 23 Test matches for England, admitted he was responsible for some of the offensive and derogatory terms that Rafiq revealed he was subjected to during his time playing for the county in northern England.

He said: “I am aware of how hurtful the racial slur is and I regret that I used this word in immature exchanges in my younger years and I am sure Rafa feels the same about some of the things he said to me as well.”

Ballance said Rafiq was his “closest friend and supporter in cricket” and that he has been “completely honest and transparent” throughout the investigation.

He added: “To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years.

“The independent enquiry, having heard all of the evidence, accepted that the context of some of the language used was in a ‘friendly verbal attack’ between friends which was not intended to offend or hurt and that no malice was intended.”

The statement continued: “I regret that these exchanges took place but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress.

“If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately. He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him.

“That does not mean that what passed between us was right or appropriate. It was not. Rafa said things to me that were not acceptable and I did the same with Rafa.”

Gary Ballance
Image: Gary Ballance says he deeply regrets using the slur against Rafiq

Yorkshire’s chairman Roger Hutton was summoned to appear before a parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee to answer questions over the club’s handling of the allegations.

Rafiq himself has also been invited to the hearing, which is believed to be taking place on 16 November.

Amidst the backlash, Emerald Group Publishing, which held naming rights to Headingley Stadium, Yorkshire Tea and Anchor Butter have ended their association with Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“We do not tolerate any form of racism or discriminatory behaviour and the damaging effects this has,” Emerald said in a statement.

“We hope that YCCC will listen and respond with serious action to eradicate racism from the club and uphold the values we all expect.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is also assessing Yorkshire’s handling of the claims and if it decides to punish the club, sanctions could include temporarily stripping Headingley of its status as a Test match venue.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News

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