'There just seemed to be an acceptance': Azeem Rafiq recounts racism in English cricket at parliament.
Former player Azeem Rafiq testified today in tears before a British parliamentary committee that he was embarrassed by the racist abuse and bullying he endured at England's most successful cricket club.
Rafiq claimed that Yorkshire players used a derogatory word in reference to his Pakistani ancestry, and the club's leadership failed to address the prejudice.
""Quite early on, comments such as 'You lot sit there by the toilets,' 'Elephant washers,'" Rafiq told a House of Commons select committee supervising sport. The term P—- was frequently used. And there appeared to be widespread acceptance among the institution's leaders, with no one attempting to wipe it out."
Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain, described his experience at Yorkshire from 2008 until 2018 as "isolated, humiliating at times."
Yorkshire has been prohibited from hosting international matches by the England and Wales Cricket Board due to its "very appalling" response to Rafiq's racism.
Yorkshire announced last month that it will take no disciplinary action against any of its employees, players, or officials, despite an investigation finding Rafiq to have been the victim of racial abuse and bullying.
Rafiq informed legislators that he was being considered for the position of Yorkshire captain prior to disclosing his concerns in 2017. Then Rafiq stated that he was "a problem, a troublemaker, and an issue that needs to be dealt" according to board minutes.
This followed a 2017 preseason tour during which Rafiq claimed he was subjected to verbal abuse in front of others by a teammate.
"Gary Ballance approaches and inquires, 'Why are you speaking with him? You are aware that he is a P—-.' Alternatively, 'He is not a sheikh; he has no oil,' "Rafiq drew to mind.
Ballance, a former England cricketer, admitted two weeks ago to using a racial slur at Rafiq while they were teammates at Yorkshire, but stated that "this was a circumstance where closest friends said awful things to each other that would be deemed completely improper in any other context."
Yorkshire commissioned a formal investigation on 43 complaints made by Rafiq in September 2020, with seven of them upheld in a report revealed only in September under pressure from the parliamentarians holding today's meeting.
The committee had to take a pause for several minutes at one point as Rafiq struggled with the emotions associated with remembering terrible experiences.
Rafiq, who was born in Pakistan and is Muslim, described his painful first encounter with alcohol at the age of 15 when asked about his drinking.
"I was restrained at my neighborhood cricket club and had red wine forced down my throat, literally down my throat," Rafiq, 30, explained. "The footballer was a member of the Yorkshire and Hampshire football teams. I (then) abstained from alcohol until about 2012, when I felt compelled to do it in order to fit in." I was not without flaws. There are certain things I did because I felt compelled to do so in order to fulfill my dreams. That I regret profoundly, but it has nothing to do with race." I should have been listened to when I talked. The game has an issue with listening to the victim as a whole. With racism, there is no 'yes, but'; there are no 'two sides' to racism."
Yorkshire's chairman and chief executive quit this month.