Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - 'I lost my career to racism': Rafiq testifies with crushing details. Representative Image: Yorkshire CCC were lambasted further for their abysmal handling of the racism complaints.
Representative Image: Yorkshire CCC were lambasted further for their abysmal handling of the racism complaints.
Azeem Rafiq's testimony to a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday (November 11) contained many harrowing details of his experience as a professional cricketer. But perhaps the most confronting moment was when he said, “I lost my career to racism.” Six simple words that were the most damning of indictments.
It was a day when Rafiq's bravery, honesty and devastation were all clear to see as he spent more than an hour giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee. Each UK government department has such a select committee which is charged with scrutinising the work of that department. The DCMS Committee also conducts inquiries into areas of interest within its remit, including sport.
The committee decided to look into the Rafiq case, and the issue of racism in cricket more generally, given Yorkshire's abysmal handling of their former off-spinner's allegations of racism, bullying and harassment and the subsequent decision by the county not to take disciplinary action against any of their employees despite an independent report concluding that Rafiq had indeed been the subject of “racial harassment and bullying”.
All hearings of such nature are held under the principle of Parliamentary privilege, which means those given oral evidence can do so without the threat of legal action being taken against them. It allowed Rafiq, for example, to name individuals during his testimony without repercussion although any individual named in the hearing is able to respond to the committee in writing.
Rafiq's evidence was searing in its honesty and heart-breaking in its detail. He broke down a number of times as he spoke about his experiences. “Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background…there were comments such as ‘you'll sit over there near the toilets', ‘elephant washers',” Rafiq said. “The word P*** was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no-one ever stamped it out.”
Individuals named in Rafiq's testimony included Gary Ballance and Alex Hales. “We were in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes: ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he's a P***.' This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of coaching staff,” Rafiq said. Earlier this month, Ballance admitted using a “racial slur” towards Rafiq and apologised.
Rafiq also discussed the use of the term “Kevin” which he alleges Ballance used as a term for all people of colour. “Kevin' was something Gary used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner. It was an open secret in the England dressing room,” he said. “Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour.
“Gary and Alex Hales got really close to each other when they played for England together. I wasn't present in that dressing room, but what I understand…that Alex went on to name his dog Kevin because it was black. It's disgusting how much of a joke it was.”
England captain Joe Root was a housemate of Ballance's when the pair were younger and while Rafiq says the England captain “is a good man”, he also claimed Root was present on nights out when the term ‘P***' was used. Last week, Root said he had not seen incidents of racism take place. “I want to be clear, Rooty is a good man,” Rafiq said. “He's never engaged in racist language, I found [his comments] hurtful.
“He was Gary's flatmate. He was involved in social nights out during which I was called a P***. He might not remember but it shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn't see it for what it is.”
In another example of the bullying he encountered, Rafiq, who is a Muslim, said: “I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat,” he said. “The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire. I [then] didn't touch alcohol until about 2012 and around that time I felt I had to do that to fit in. I wasn't perfect, there are things I did which I felt I had to do to achieve my dreams. I deeply regret that but it has nothing to do with racism.”
Rafiq has also alleged that Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, had said, “there's too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” to a group of Asian players during a Yorkshire match, a claim that has been substantiated by two other players in the team that day. Vaughan has twice denied he said those words.
“Michael might not remember it… three of us, Adil [Rashid], myself and Rana [Naved-ul-Hasan] remember it,” Rafiq said during his evidence. He used his platform at the Daily Telegraph to tell everyone he hadn't said these things. To go on and put a snippet of my statement out and talk about other things, I thought was completely wrong. He probably doesn't remember it because it doesn't mean anything to him.”
Rafiq also criticised Yorkshire, the Professional Cricketers' Association – which he described as “incredibly inept” – and the ECB for their handling of his claims while describing the hurt that he has experienced. “Through the winter I kept begging the ECB, the PCA, I kept telling them ‘they [Yorkshire] are not doing the right thing, this is going to end up in a car crash for everyone',” Rafiq said.
“On a human point I felt like if someone else had told me they were suicidal and they were ringing you saying ‘please help' I'd forget my constitution and help a human. Over the winter there were some real dark moments.
“I lost my career to racism. My kids have not had a dad for the last 15 months as all I've been worried about is Yorkshire trying to discredit me. It has been challenging, but hopefully this provides some closure. Hopefully, in five years' time we will see a big change and I can look back and see something far bigger than any runs or wickets. But it hurts.
“When I spoke I should have been listened to. The game as a whole has a problem, with listening to the victim. There is no ‘yeah, but' with racism; there is no ‘two sides' to racism.”