March 3, 2024
Azeem Rafiq 'was driven out of the country' since speaking out on racism

Azeem Rafiq claims he’s been “forced out of the country by threats and abuse” since “opening up his heart” about racism in Yorkshire.

Rafiq, speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said that media coverage had led to threats to his family.

The 31-year-old described a man who “defecates” in his yard as well as the abuse he received on the streets.

Rafiq stated that he has walked down the street many times, fearing for his life.

A former Yorkshire spinner said to MPs that English cricket was “institutionally racist. ” He had previously stated in 2020 that abuse at his club had led him to take his own life.

Rafiq stated that a “never-ending, coordinated campaign of lies” had “caused significant risk” to his safety following being accused in a Daily Mail report of anti-Semitism, homophobia, and other crimes.

Rafiq stated that he now has “24/7 security” through England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). He also spoke out about how the Yorkshire Post’s coverage of this story “should have been held responsible” for the abuse he and their family have suffered since.

He said that every article has created an online abuse wave.

“I don’t feel that they [the Yorkshire Post] ever had any balance. If I had to choose one reason for all this, it would be the Yorkshire Post’s writing.

It can be difficult to move abroad, especially if you have parents who are ill. “

BBC Sport was told by the Yorkshire Post that it used the same principles of objectivity and impartiality to seek out all sides of the story.

The ECB stated that the evidence presented to the committee hearing “demonstrates the need for widespread cricket reform” and added that it is committed to “lasting cultural changes.”

‘Cricket is in denial.’

Many former and current players and coaches have been reprimanded since Rafiq made his statement.

Rafiq suggested that a cricket regulator be established. He claimed that the ECB was “involved in the leaking, planting, and discrediting” of his experiences.

He stated that it all felt very superficial at the top and that “cricket was in denial.”

“I have been attacked and abused, so why should I speak up? “

Rafiq was one of five players reprimanded earlier in October by the ECB over historical, social media posts that were racist. Rafiq previously apologized for an exchange on Facebook in 2011 that contained anti-Semitic comments.

He said that he had made many mistakes in his life.

“One of the things that were revealed were anti-Semitic comments I made. I did exactly as I asked others to do: I apologized and admitted that I had made the comments. I also tried to learn from them. “

James Mitchinson, Yorkshire Post’s editorial director, stated in a long statement: “The scurrilous allegations made today to DCMS select committee, referring myself, The Yorkshire Post, and my staff, in relation to Mr. Rafiq’s experiences of racism bullying while playing for Yorkshire County Cricket Club. I reject absolutely.”

“From the moment Mr. Rafiq whistled on the racist abuse he was subject to – The Yorkshire Post repeatedly acknowledged that fact – while playing for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, we applied the same rules to objectivity, impartiality, and professionalism in trying to tell the whole story. This includes the experiences of those who were dismissed or accused of being racists but who are determined to clear their names. We expect the same from our readers, and we will continue to do so.

“Those who believe that a free press is empowered to find the truth should be deeply concerned by the failed attempt to undermine The Yorkshire Post.

“Finally, I want to assure Mr. Rafiq that I could have taken more ownership of this story and applied more diligence to editing it. I am committed to listening and telling all sides with honesty, integrity, and impartiality. “

Lord Patel: “Things must change.”

Lord Patel was elected Yorkshire chair in November 2021

Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel was elected last year following Roger Hutton’s resignation. He read out a racist email the club received and stated that he had a “bagful” of similar correspondence since Rafiq spoke out.

Lord Patel has opened an independent hotline for victims and survivors of discrimination since taking over. Headingley is now able to host internationals due to structural reforms.

Lord Patel stated that his job felt “relentless” after taking over. He added: “I don’t understand where Azeem gets to keep going.”

“The current state of affairs must change. This is a sport. It’s something we love, and it brings people together.

“This was a concerted attack. I don’t believe people get it. The ECB has it wrong, I think. We need to examine the entire culture of cricket.

“We are on a long journey. Many people will have to get off the bus along the way. Things must change. “

The ECB stated that it was appalled by Lord Patel’s racist abuse and that it recognizes the “pain” he has suffered.

Lord Patel said that women are “forgotten” in Yorkshire.

He said that the women’s team doesn’t have a changing room. That’s going to change.


BBC sports correspondent Laura Scott

Azeem Rafiq insists that this wasn’t about him and that the purpose for him to speak out on his experiences with racism was to improve the game. However, his testimony has made it clear how much this has had an ongoing personal impact on him.

He is not sure that the structural issues’ he sees in cricket have been properly addressed 13 months after his last appearance before it. This is especially true when he believes that there are still people who believe the problem does not exist.

He seems to doubt the game-wide initiatives taken by the ECB and the governance changes.

However, this was not all bad. Lord Patel stated that Yorkshire has significantly improved the variety of its pathway programs by offering free coaching, free kit, and free support. This is despite the fact that it cost the county PS500,000.

Perhaps the county was the center of the crisis and could be a model for others.


Read also: Pakistan v England: Special tour makes it feel like cricket has come home – Aatif Nawaz

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