What is the Azeem Rafiq race scandal and why he went beyond Yorkshire and English cricket

Azeem Rafiq | Twitter

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New Delhi: Allegations of ‘institutional racism’ that first rocked Yorkshire County Cricket Club in September 2020 have since escalated into a scandal that has forced many club leadership positions to resign and sparked debate over the possible prevalence of discrimination across English cricket.

Azeem Rafiq, the Karachi-born England player who first made the allegations, appeared before a UK parliamentary committee to elaborate on his claims.

After Tuesday’s hearing, representatives of the ECB as well as other leading English cricket organizations ‘apologized wholeheartedly’ to Rafiq for the discrimination, while he also received support from the new chief from Yorkshire CCC, Lord Kamlesh Patel.

Writing about the scandal and Rafiq’s allegations in an article for the Daily mail Earlier this week, former England captain Nasser Hussain, who was born in Madras (as he was then), wrote: “It’s prevalent throughout the game. And it was not taken back because it has become the norm. It’s a ‘this is what we do’ attitude and it has been escalating for far too long. “

However, Rafiq himself has been accused of making “anti-Semitic” comments in the past, for which he has now apologized. And according to a report by Yorkshire Post Rafiq also reportedly sent sexually inappropriate messages to a teenage girl in 2015, when he was 24, three months after they met on a flight. Rafiq has yet to publicly respond to this allegation.

ThePrint explains how the scandal started and recaps the developments of the past year.

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Who is Azeem Rafiq and what did he say?

All-rounder Azeem Rafiq, born in Pakistan, played for the Yorkshire senior team between 2008 and 2014 and then again between 2016 and 2018.

It wasn’t until August 2020, however, that he spoke publicly about the alleged racism he was said to have faced and his struggle with mental health issues in recent years.

In an interview with Wisden‘s Taha Hashim then, Rafiq asserted: “I was in a locker room where things were said and, really, I should have stopped him. I had a captain who was openly racist. Why haven’t I stopped him? It was the environment… You look back and think that the one time I lifted it, I was made out to be the person wrong. Over the years you feel like you have to do things to fit in, and I have. The minute I didn’t, I felt isolated.

Rafiq expanded on his claims in subsequent interviews with Sky News and ESPN Cricinfo.

In September last year, Yorkshire CCC announced its own investigation into the allegations. However, in October 2021, Yorkshire said he would not take any disciplinary action against players, staff or executives, although he admitted that Rafiq had been “the victim of inappropriate behavior” during his time at the club. The panel investigating Rafiq’s allegations reportedly confirmed seven of the player’s 43 claims.

Last Tuesday, Rafiq appeared before a UK parliamentary committee to elaborate on his allegations against the club, after Yorkshire missed several deadlines to publish its own investigative report.

In an emotional hearing that lasted more than three hours, Rafiq laid bare the extent of racial slurs, personal abuse, locker room bullying and discriminatory policies he felt by several employees senior and the Yorkshire CCC as a whole during his two stays there. as a player.

Rafiq also shared a 57-page witness statement he submitted to the Leeds Employment Tribunal in 2020.

Names that feature prominently on the list are suspended Yorkshire head coach Andrew Gale, cricket manager Martyn Moxon, former general manager Mark Arthur, as well as former England cricketers Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan , Alex Hales, Matthew Hoggard and Michael Vaughan.

In Vaughan’s case, Rafiq claimed that following the teams meeting at the start of a T20 game between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire in 2009, the former England captain told Rafiq and three other players Asians in the starting lineup that “there are too many of you. We need to have a word on this ”.

While Vaughan has repeatedly denied making the remark, Rafiq’s account was corroborated by two of the three Asian players present – former Pakistani coach Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and current England leg spinner Adil Rashid.

Rafiq accused Hoggard of coining the nickname “Raffa le Cafre”, referring to an insult that was used against non-whites in apartheid South Africa, and derived from the Arabic term which means “non- believer”. Rafiq also said Hoggard had called him personally in 2020 to apologize for his behavior, an apology Rafiq said he accepted.

According to Rafiq, he was the most abused by Ballance, Bresnan and Gale. He claimed he complained to authorities in Yorkshire while playing there about the abuse he faced, although he has yet to speak publicly about it, but Moxon and Arthur’s inaction against complaints caused him maximum mental trauma. It was this, in addition to the death of his infant son in 2018, that pushed him to the brink of suicide, Rafiq alleged.

While Ballance and Bresnan are named over 40 times in the witness statement, Moxon is named over 80 times and Gale over 100 times.

Rafiq has described numerous instances of intimidation and personal abuse which he believes have not been inflicted on white Yorkshire players. A common theme that ran through his statement was the frequent use of the racial insult “Paki” by the people mentioned above, and senior club members called it a “joke.”

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Rafiq support

Perhaps it was the extensive coverage of Rafiq’s case by former ESPNCricinfo reporter George Dobell that caught the attention of UK Health Secretary and Conservative Party leader Sajid Javid, who is also from Pakistani origin.

“’Paki’ is no joke. Heads should fall at Yorkshire CCC. If @ECB_cricket doesn’t take any action it’s not fit for purpose, ”Javid tweeted earlier this month, in response to a tweet from Dobell on the matter.

Javid’s tweet made Rafiq’s long wait for justice urgent, turning the scandal from a cricket issue into a national and international issue.

As such, Dobell called Rafiq “Yorkshire’s most stubborn man”.

Asked by an MP at the hearing about how he “used force” to defend his cause for over a year and recall his experiences, Rafiq simply replied: “I have a little bit of Karachi and a bit of Barnsley in me ”, a reference to his birth in Pakistan and his upbringing in the UK.

Called for anti-Semitic comments

Rafiq did not come out of the scandal unscathed, however. His credentials as an anti-racism activist in British society have also been called into question after anti-Semitic remarks he posted on Facebook in 2011 recently resurfaced.

Rafiq has since apologized for the comments and reiterated his desire to take responsibility for other transgressions committed in the past.

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Impact on Yorkshire and England cricket

Not only have most of those accused by Rafiq since made public statements on the matter, but managing director Arthur has also resigned from his post, and senior player Ballance and head coach Gale have been suspended by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the club respectively.

President Roger Hutton, who had joined Yorkshire in April 2020 and reportedly tried to implement reforms, also resigned and called the club an ‘institutional racist’ during the parliamentary committee hearing, criticizing the ECB for not having supported his efforts to change.

Hutton’s replacement as chairman, Nairobi-born Lord Kamlesh Patel, is currently faced with the task of guiding Yorkshire away from a future of financial ruin and ensuring a more inclusive atmosphere at the club. Lord Patel has so far openly expressed his support for Rafiq, and under his leadership, Yorkshire has set up a hotline for anyone wishing to formally complain about the racism facing the club.

“Azeem testifying is an important moment and, as a whistleblower, he is to be commended for speaking up. I said from the start that we need to listen and learn in order to create urgent change at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, ”said Lord Patel. The cricketer.

Since the scandal that followed Rafiq’s allegations began, the club have lost almost all of their sponsors and their home location, Headingley in Leeds, has been banned from hosting international cricket matches by the ECB.

Summarizing the developments of the past year and their possible impact on the future, Nasser Hussain wrote in the Daily mail, “Lord Patel talked about seismic change and as long as the game means it and doesn’t just do tick drills like wearing T-shirts and stuff, then maybe we can be optimistic. for a brighter and more inclusive future.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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