Azeem Rafiq hits back in Yorkshire cricket racism row

Cricketer says abuse aimed at him in recent days shows why coming forward is hard

Azeem Rafiq has hit out at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, insisting that people saw him reduced to tears by the racist abused he suffered while playing for the club.

Rafiq, 31, also said he is under renewed pressure as details of the abuse he faced come to light.

An independent inquiry, commissioned by the Yorkshire club, found Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” while playing for the club for two periods between 2008 and 2018.

Gary Ballance was named as the player mentioned in the inquiry’s report, who tormented Rafiq with abuse targeting his racial identity.

Despite the investigators’ harsh words, Yorkshire decided to regard the abuse as banter and has not carried out disciplinary action on any staff, sparking a controversy that has prompted a parliamentary hearing scheduled for November 16.

On Thursday, Rafiq fired off a series of tweets aimed at Yorkshire Cricket Club and Ballance.

“Lot of people that watched me cry basically every time I socialised but aye they weren’t contacted.

“Lot to unravel & seriously wanted to avoid going in to personal things but as I said all along if “racism” is tried to be downplayed by personal stuff I will respond.”

“Funny how things change from complete denial to I accepted everything over a 14 month period??” he said, referring to different comments put out by Yorkshire and Ballance.

He said the abuse aimed his way in recent days showed why coming forward is hard.

“Even now people [are] trying to discredit me behind the scenes. Guess what they are from my community. It hurts every day!! I will not be scared of any legal actions or things you say about me. You have all tried to END me. Still here & fighting.”

He went on: “When investigating racism, the process needs transparency, not only so people know what happened, but so we can learn from it.”

“I wanted to stress this is not really about the words of certain individuals. This is about institutional racism and abject failures to act by numerous leaders at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and in the wider game. The sport I love and my club desperately need reform and cultural change”, he added.

Yorkshire's handling of the investigation has been heavily criticised within the sport and by politicians.

Inquiry investigators found the comments directed at Azeem “capable of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment".

However, Yorkshire's inquiry panel, responsible for making recommendations, stated: “The panel does not accept that Azeem was offended by [the other player's] comments, either at the time they were made or subsequently.”

Ballance has admitted he used racial slurs towards Rafiq when they were teammates and that both men “said things privately to each other which were not acceptable”. He offered remorse for his part of those exchanges.

Updated: November 4th 2021, 4:16 PM