Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq fought back tears as he told British lawmakers on Tuesday that racism had cost him his career, detailing widespread discrimination in the English game.
An independent report found the Pakistan-born player was subjected to “racial harassment and bullying” while playing for the county club, but the club refused to discipline anyone — a decision that was met with widespread skepticism.
Yorkshire’s fallout from the scandal has been devastating, with sponsors fleeing in droves, top administrators resigning, a coach suspended, and the club barred from hosting lucrative international matches.
Rafiq’s appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday provided him with the opportunity to speak with the protection of parliamentary privilege — a freedom that shields him from legal action and which he used to describe how he felt “isolated and humiliated.” “Me and other Asian people… there were comments like ‘you’ll sit over there near the toilets,’ ‘elephant-washers,'” Rafiq, 30, said.
“The word ‘Paki’ was constantly used. And there seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders, and no one ever tried to stamp it out.”The off-spinner, who aspired to play for England, said institutional racism was a problem “up and down the country.”
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Rafiq, a Muslim, also described being “pinned down” and forced to drink alcohol at the age of 15 while at his local cricket club.
And, in a nearly 100-minute-long emotional segment of his testimony, he spoke of Yorkshire’s “inhuman” treatment of his still-born son in 2017.
“They weren’t too concerned that I was at training one day and got a phone call saying there was no heartbeat,” he said, his voice cracking.
“Do I believe I lost my career to racism?” Rafiq, who played for Yorkshire twice, said. “I do, indeed.”
He also stated that several former teammates, including ex-England internationals Matthew Hoggard, Tim Bresnan, and Gary Ballance, the latter of whom is still at Yorkshire, had used racial slurs against him.
“‘Kevin’ was a derogatory term Gary used to describe anyone of color,” he explained. “It was a well-kept secret in England’s dressing room.”
Rafiq, who stated that he refused to sign a confidentiality agreement and accept a pay-off from Yorkshire, also stated that 2005 Ashes winner Hoggard apologized to him for his comments.
He also expressed his “hurt” that England Test captain Joe Root, who has spent his entire career at Yorkshire, had never witnessed anything racist at the club.
“Rooty is a decent man. “He never used racist language,” Rafiq stated.
“I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary (Ballance’s) housemate and had been involved in a lot of the socializing where I was referred to as a ‘Paki.'”
Rafiq also claimed that former England batsman and coach David Lloyd had made disparaging remarks about him and Asian cricketers in general, including the remark that “getting subs (subscriptions) out of Asian players is like getting blood out of stone.”
Lloyd issued an apology on Twitter on Tuesday, saying of his “private” October 2020 comments, “I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise most sincerely to Azeem and to the Asian cricket community for doing this, and for any offence caused.”
On Monday, current England spinner Adil Rashid joined ex-Pakistan Test player Rana Naved-ul-Hasan in claiming that former England captain Michael Vaughan said to a group of Yorkshire Asian players in 2009: “Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it.”
Vaughan “categorically” denies making the remark.
When asked about Vaughan, Rafiq responded, “Michael might not remember it… We three, Adil, myself, and Rana, remember it.” Rafiq was critical of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s diversity initiatives, calling them “box-ticking” and “tokenism.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that cricket authorities must act quickly to combat racism.
“Azeem Rafiq gave a brave testimony. “I applaud him for speaking out,” Johnson said on Twitter.
“Racism has no place in society, and we expect England Cricket and Yorkshire County Cricket Club to take immediate action in response to these allegations.”
The ECB’s chief executive, Tom Harrison, admitted to MPs that the organisation had failed Rafiq and stated that tackling racism would be a priority.
“We’ll fix it right away,” he promised. “We understand that our sport’s survival is at stake.” We will quickly transform this game.”