Former England international Gary Ballance admitted on Wednesday to using a racial slur against former Yorkshire teammate Azeem Rafiq in a tumultuous row that has cost the county a number of sponsors.
“I regret using this word in immature exchanges in my younger years,” Ballance said in a statement.
“It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent inquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so,” the 31-year-old England Test player said.
“I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements he made about me and others, but I must be clear that this was a situation in which best friends said offensive things to each other that would be considered wholly inappropriate outside of that context,” Ballance said.
“At no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress,” Ballance added, adding that if he had realized, “then I would have stopped immediately.”
Ballance’s admission came after publishing company Emerald severed ties with Yorkshire and their Headingley stadium in Leeds due to the handling of a report that found Rafiq experienced “racial harassment and bullying” at the club. Yorkshire Tea, like shirt sponsor Anchor Butter, ended their partnership with the club on a bad day for the club.
Several other sponsors, including the beer company Tetley’s, decided not to renew their contracts.
“We do not tolerate any form of racism or discriminatory behavior, regardless of the negative consequences,” Emerald said in a statement.
“We hope that YCCC will listen and take serious action to eliminate racism from the club and uphold the values that we all expect.”
When the report was released in September, the county issued “profound and unreserved apologies” to Rafiq, 30, but said last week that no disciplinary action would be taken against any staff.
Yorkshire has faced a barrage of criticism as a result of the storey, which has drawn the attention of senior British politicians as well as the England and Wales Cricket Board, the sport’s governing body (ECB).
Rafiq, Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton, and the county’s chief executive and director of cricket have been called to appear before a British parliamentary committee on November 16.
Committee chair Julian Knight has called on Yorkshire’s board to resign due to “endemic racism,” calling the incident “one of the most repulsive and disturbing episodes in modern cricket history.”
Rafiq, a Pakistan-born off-spinner who played for Yorkshire twice between 2008 and 2018, made 43 allegations and claimed that his treatment at the club had driven him to suicidal thoughts.
Yorkshire’s redacted report upheld seven of his claims but concluded that the club was not racist on a systemic level.
“No one believed me, no one listened; everyone tried to protect themselves and left me to fight alone,” Rafiq tweeted this week. “IT’S TIME FOR THE WHOLE TRUTH.”