Racist taunts started early in career at Yorkshire
Azeem Rafiq told the the digital, culture, media and sport select committee that from early on at Yorkshire he was subject to personal racist abuse. He reported to the MPs on the committee that “there was a lot of ‘you lot sit over there near the toilets’, the word Paki was used constantly, no one ever stamped it out. All I wanted to do was play cricket. Towards the end of my first spell but constantly throughout I knew there was something wrong. I started taking medication for my mental health. It was really tough.”
Finger pointed at Ballance and Gale
The former Yorkshire player said matters got much worse during his second spell with the county: “Andrew Gale came in as coach, Gary Ballance as captain, and the temperature changed. I felt isolated. Ballance came over and said: ‘Why are you talking to him, he’s not a sheikh, he hasn’t got oil.’” Rafiq said his captain’s behaviour was “disgusting” and the atmosphere under him became “toxic”. He stated that everyone saw what was going on but ‘“no one did anything about it” and described his treatment by the club as “inhuman” during the stillbirth of his son.
Moxon called on to apologise for his treatment
After this incident, Rafiq says Martyn Moxon, now Yorkshire’s director of cricket, “tore a strip” off him. Rafiq said the incident happened the day he returned after the loss of his child. He had never seen him talk to anyone like that before and called on him to apologise for his behaviour.
‘Kevin’: derogatory abuse from Ballance and Hales
Asked by the chairman of the committee Julian Knight about the term “Kevin”, Rafiq said it was an offensive, racist one that reached the very top of the game. “‘Kevin’ was a something Gary used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner. It was an open secret in the England dressing room,” he added. “Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour.” Rafiq also alleged former England batter Alex Hales was involved. He said: “Gary and Alex got really close to each other when they played for England together. I wasn’t present in that dressing room, but what I understand [is] that Alex went on to name his dog ‘Kevin’ because it was black. It’s disgusting how much of a joke it was.”
Rafiq had wine poured down throat by other players
Rafiq, who is Muslim, said he started drinking “to fit in” at Yorkshire, something he has “come to regret”. When asked by Knight if he was ever forced to drink under the age of 18, Rafiq said he was pinned down while a player for his local cricket club in his mid-teens and had red wine poured down his throat. He said someone who played for Yorkshire and Hampshire was involved.
Lloyd called out for briefing against player
Rafiq claimed the former England coach and current Sky cricket pundit David Lloyd had briefed others about his drinking. Of Lloyd, Rafiq said: “He’d been an England coach and commentator and I found it disturbing, because Sky is supposedly doing this amazing work on bringing racism to the front and within a week of me speaking out, that’s what I got sent to me and I thought: ‘God, there are some closet racists and I need to do something about it.’”
Root under fire for denials of racism at county
Rafiq said he found it “hurtful” that the England captain Joe Root said he had never witnessed anything of a racist nature at Yorkshire. “Rooty is a good man. He never engaged in racist language,” Rafiq added. “I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary [Ballance]’s housemate and had been involved in a lot of the socialising where I was called a ‘Paki’. It shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn’t see it for what it was. It’s not going to affect Joe, but it’s something I remember every day.”
Vaughan questioned over denials of racist language
Asked about Michael Vaughan, who has denied telling Asian teammates at Yorkshire “there’s too many of you lot, we need to do something about it”, Rafiq said: ‘Michael might not remember it … three of us, Adil [Rashid], myself and Rana [Naved-ul-Hasan] remember it. He used his platform at the Daily Telegraph to tell everyone he hadn’t said these things. To go on and put a snippet of my statement out and talk about other things, I thought was completely wrong. He probably doesn’t remember it because it doesn’t mean anything to him.”
ECB and PCA ‘did nothing’ to help player
Rafiq says he begged the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers’ Association to step in, but that neither of the organisations wanted to. Rafiq says he had dark moments over the winter and at one point the PCA reported him missing. He said he doesn’t think that was done out of concern for his mental health but that it “wanted to tick a box just in case I killed myself”.
Rafiq does not want son ‘anywhere near game’
Rafiq said that, as a result of his experiences: “I can’t imagine a parent, hearing me speak today, would want their child to go anywhere near cricket. I don’t want my son to go anywhere near the game. As a parent, I’d say keep an eye on your kids because this is reality. I would not let my kid go there and just leave them in the hands of these people.”