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.

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“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.

The allegations

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.”

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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 action

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”.

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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

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.