Azeem Rafiq has today apologised for sending anti-Semitic messages to a fellow cricketer on Facebook a decade ago
Azeem Rafiq has today apologised for sending anti-Semitic messages to a fellow cricketer on Facebook a decade ago.
The former Yorkshire spin bowler, now 30, rocked the world of sport with wide-ranging allegations of racism in cricket at a damning parliamentary committee in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday.
He pointed the finger at a number of high-profile individuals during his Westminster appearance, but was today forced to confront his own past shortcomings when The Times uncovered an exchange with former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid.
In it, Rafiq makes offensive remarks about an unidentified Jewish person in 2011. He and Javid appeared to joke about another Asian cricketer not paying a dinner bill.
Rafiq wrote: ‘Hahaha he is a Jew. Probs go after my 2nds again.’ He later added: ‘How wrong is that? Only Jews do that sort of s***.’
In a statement this afternoon, Rafiq confirmed the messages are authentic and apologised for his past remarks, saying he is a ‘different person today’.
He wrote: ‘I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today. I have gone back to check my account and it is me. I have absolutely no excuses. I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence.
‘I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today. I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this.’
Left: The Times uncovered an exchange with former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid. In it, Rafiq makes offensive remarks about an unidentified Jewish person in 2011. He and Javid appeared to joke about another Asian cricketer not paying a dinner bill. Right: In a statement this afternoon, Rafiq confirmed the messages are authentic and apologised for his past remarks, saying he is a ‘different person today’
Cricketer Azeem Rafiq (pictured) fought back tears as MPs heard bombshell allegations of institutional racism at the heart of the English game
Yorkshire Cricket Club scandal timeline:
2008-2018: Azeem Rafiq spends 10 years at Yorkshire CCC, becoming their youngest-ever captain and first of Asian origin in 2012.
September 2020: Yorkshire launch investigation as Rafiq reveals that ‘deep-rooted’ racism at the club left him ‘close to committing suicide’. ‘I would regularly come home from training and cry all day,’ he said. Accusations included people saying there was ‘too many of you lot’ referring to Rafiq and Asian team-mates.
December 2020: Rafiq files legal claim against the county, claiming he suffered ‘direct discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race, as well as victimisation and detriment as a result of his efforts to address racism at the club’.
June 2021: Report is delayed and Rafiq’s lawyer says the pushbacks ‘create a lack of faith in the entire process’. Employment tribunal is held but parties fail to resolve the dispute.
August 2021: Yorkshire issue ‘profound apologies’ to Rafiq as report finds he was ‘the victim of inappropriate behaviour’. But they do not accept the claim of institutional racism – Rafiq accuses the county of ‘fudging’ his claims and promised he was ‘not going away’.
September 2021: ECB are ‘very concerned’ with the summary of the panel’s findings, with Yorkshire admitting Rafiq was the victim of ‘racial harassment and bullying’.
But just seven of the 43 allegations made are upheld, with Yorkshire saying they do not intend to publish a full report.
October 2021: Yorkshire say they will not take disciplinary action against any of its employees following the report. Rafiq writes on Twitter that the club is ’embarrassing’, saying it gives a ‘green light’ to racism.
Last week: Details of the report are published by ESPNcricinfo, including a senior player’s admission that he repeatedly used the word ‘P***’ in reference to Rafiq, which was deemed ‘banter’. Health secretary Sajid Javid said ‘heads should roll’, with the Prime Minister asking the ECB to investigate.
Last week: MailOnline reveals the player was Rafiq’s former Yorkshire team-mate, England batsman Gary Ballance. Sponsors Anchor Butter, Yorkshire Tea and Emerald all cut ties with the club.
The revelation comes after MPs today warned the England and Wales Cricket Board to get its house in order over racism in the sport following Rafiq’s appearance in front of MPs just days ago.
In shocking testimony that stunned the cricketing world, Rafiq broke down in tears as he revealed the racism he had suffered in the game.
Rafiq made racial discrimination claims against Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard, Alex Hales, Gary Ballance and David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd.
He also named Somerset bowler Jack Brooks, revealing that he had referred to India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara as ‘Steve’ as he didn’t want to say his first name.
Brooks has been reprimanded by his club and ordered to undergo diversity training following the allegation, as well as the emergence of nine-year-old tweets where he called two friends ‘ne**o’ emerged.
Somerset announced the punishment for the fast bowler after he apologised to England star Tymal Mills and Stewart Laudat, 50, who played minor counties cricket for Oxfordshire, for addressing them both as ‘ne**o’ in 2012 when he was a Northamptonshire player.
The spin bowler turned whistleblower also warned yesterday that ‘hundreds and thousands’ of cricketers could now come forward with their own racism claims following his emotional testimony – claiming there will be an opening of the ‘floodgates’ where victims of alleged abuse fight back.
In a devastating 90-minute testimony to a Commons committee, Rafiq recalled his ‘inhuman’ treatment at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and accused senior players of racist bullying.
The 30-year-old former bowler said the word P*** was ‘used constantly’ in his time on the Yorkshire first team – and that racism continues to be rife in county teams across the country.
At one point the hearing had to be halted as Rafiq broke down in tears describing his treatment after he lost his unborn child, with a senior official ‘ripping the shreds’ off him instead of offering support.
The cricketer was giving evidence to MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport committee after a report earlier this year found he was a victim of ‘racial harassment and bullying’ but the club said they would not discipline anyone. The remarks have also been dismissed by other players as ‘banter’.
In his highly emotional account Rafiq said he had lost his career to racism after making an official complaint about bullying, but hoped that by speaking out he could change the game.
He said the word ‘P***’ was ‘used constantly’ and Asian players were told to sit ‘near the toilets’ and referred to as ‘elephant washers’.
He told how, aged 15 and a practising Muslim, he was ‘pinned down’ and had red wine poured down his throat by a senior player at his local cricket club.
And he said racism had seeped into the England dressing room, where it was an ‘open secret’ that the England and Yorkshire player Gary Ballance used the word ‘Kevin’ as a derogatory word for black and Asian players, an allegation Ballance has denied.
And he said racism had seeped into the England dressing room, where it was an ‘open secret’ that the England and Yorkshire player Gary Ballance (pictured) used the word ‘Kevin’ as a derogatory word for black and Asian players, an allegation Ballance has denied
He added that England batsman Alex Hales allegedly named his dog Kevin because it was black.
Hales strongly denied the claims in a statement yesterday.
Rafiq also criticised other players not directly involved in racist behaviour for failing to recognise the damaging culture and doing nothing to stamp it out.
They included England test captain Joe Root – described by Rafiq as ‘a good man’ – who was present when racist slurs were made.
He said problems began with Yorkshire CCC’s hierarchy when he was labelled a troublemaker for complaining about bullying by a teammate. It came to a head in his treatment by cricket director Martyn Moxon during his wife’s difficult pregnancy, which ended in the unborn child dying.
Choking back tears, the father of two said: ‘My first day back after losing my son Martyn Moxon literally got me in a room and ripped the shreds off me. I’ve never seen him speak to anyone like that through my time at the club and I couldn’t believe it.’
Decision-makers are braced for a testing day on Friday, as the England and Wales Cricket Board takes part in a game-wide meeting at The Oval.
The governing body’s handling of the ongoing racism crisis, set in train by Rafiq’s allegations against Yorkshire but seemingly spreading wider by the day, is likely to attract major criticism.
The chairs of the 18 first-class counties will meet, joined by representatives of the 21 non-first class cricket boards, the national counties cricket association and the MCC, and it is understood there is some disquiet about the glacial pace and hands-off manner the scandal has been dealt with.
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison is also expected to come under fire from some in attendance, following his unheralded appearance in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee shortly after Rafiq.
With the ECB already operating under an interim chair, Barry O’Brien, due to Ian Watmore’s recent departure, Harrison will be hoping he can restore confidence in his leadership of a game which has been in a near constant state of emergency since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cricket governance also remains on the agenda at Westminster, with sports minister Nigel Huddleston raising the prospect of an independent regulator should the current ECB regime fail to deliver on the issue of racism.
Speaking to the DCMS select committee which had interviewed both Rafiq and Harrison, he said: ‘With cricket, I’d say the clock’s ticking on this, we might well go down that route as well.
‘We’ve had very frank conversations with ECB and others involved in cricket over the last couple of weeks. I have had reassurance that they take the issue seriously and will act.
‘Tom Harrison has promised me that with every fibre of his being he will take action here. He knows he needs to act quickly. We will judge them on their deeds and not their words, and if they fail to act appropriately we will not hesitate to intervene further.’