Explained: The racism controversy surrounding Yorkshire Cricket Club
- Former Yorkshire all-rounder Azeem Rafiq claimed he was often called a 'Paki'
- YCC denied the charges, saying it was “banter between friends”
- "“P*** is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire," British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said
A racism controversy surrounding the Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) has flared up recently, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other high-raking officials of the British government getting involved.
The row started in 2018, when former Yorkshire all-rounder Azeem Rafiq alleged he had been subjected to racist behaviour by his coaches and teammates while playing for the club. The Pakistan-born Englishman’s charges were denied by YCCC, who said it was “banter between friends”.
The club’s statement, however, kicked up a storm as a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said such language “should not be used in any context”, according to The Times. The language in question was the word ‘Paki’ – a derogatory term for people of Pakistani origins – that Rafiq claimed he was often called.
“P*** is not banter. Heads should roll at Yorkshire. If the ECB doesn’t take action, it’s not fit for purpose,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a tweet recently.
Rafiq, who was born in Karachi and moved to England in 2001, was the first Asian-origin captain of Yorkshire. He was also the captain of the U-19 team which included the likes of Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and others.
In an interview with Wisden Cricket Monthly, Rafiq said he had a “captain who was openly racist.”
“Why didn’t I stop it? It was the environment. The one time I did raise it, I was made out to be the person who was in the wrong. Through the years you feel like you have to do things to fit in, and I did. The minute I didn’t, I felt isolated.”
He also claimed that once when there was himself, Adil Rashid and Naved-ul-Hasan on the field, a player said, “There’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that”.
The club said an independent inquiry had been launched into the matter in September 2020, after Rafiq first went to the press. The investigation found in August this year that the comments were “capable of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
After initially offering an apology to Rafiq in August, the club said last week that it “does not accept that Azeem was offended by comments, either at the time they were made or subsequently”.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has said it will conduct a full investigation into the incident.
YCCC’s history of racism rows
Australian World Cup winner Darren Lehmann had been banned by ICC for calling a Sri Lankan opponent a “black c***”, according to The Guardian. However, Yorkshire – his club at the time – did not initiate any action.
“You can’t say it was malicious, far from it. I’m disappointed the ICC has taken it down this route. He is not a racist,” then-YCCC chairman Colin Graves said.