On 13 November 2020, Azeem Rafiq made his first statement to the investigation into institutional racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC). An inquiry was initiated after Rafiq, inspired and encouraged by the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke out publicly about the racism and bullying he faced while playing for the club.
In his statement, Rafiq outlines the racist comments and discriminatory treatment he and other Asian players at YCCC suffered while playing for the club, which left him “isolated, lonely, bullied and targeted because of my race”. This, in turn, affected his performance and mental health, leaving him “feeling suicidal”. It also led to the end of his bright career in cricket, leaving Rafiq having “lost hope in justice” and wanting to “run away from everything associated with cricket”.
Many have already shown their support for Rafiq including Jemima Goldsmith who in her tweet on 16 November 2020 stated: “Let’s support those who have the courage to speak out about racism, like Azeem.”
On 13 November 2020, Rafiq said: “I have spoken out about the racism I faced because I don’t want kids to go through what I did. I want to see kids starting off their journey in cricket in a culture of acceptance and respect, where they are judged on their talent and not on their culture and identity. I hope that the investigation will result in meaningful change at the club and in the sport. I am grateful for the outpouring of support and words of encouragement I have received, in particular from parents who have shared their concerns about how their kids have been treated and who want to see change.”
His lawyer, Asma Iqbal of Chadwick Lawrence LLP in Leeds, said: “Having now disclosed Azeem’s evidence to the investigating panel, it remains to be seen how the investigation will progress. There were serious concerns about the initial handling of Azeem’s complaint and the people appointed to be involved in that process. After concerns were raised, people were removed from the process. We are now concerned to ensure that the investigation is fair, complies with due process and properly considers all of the facts to ensure natural justice prevails.”
Rafiq’s statement to the investigation raises the following concerns:
• Differential treatment of Rafiq and his Asian teammates compared to other teammates, including in disciplinary matters, in coaching and development support, and in pastoral care offered by YCCC (in particular after Rafiq’s son was still-born), as well as in permission to participate in professional opportunities outside of club cricket;
• Concerns about development pathways and support for young Asian players coming through the club, including reference to a communication which Rafiq says reflected broader conversations and club culture, stating “only a few Pakis are okay to go through. We cannot have too many of them”;
• Prevalence of racist comments and “banter”, including being called “elephant washers”, “Pakis” and non-white players being told to “go back to where you came from”;
• Concerns about the drinking culture at the club and within cricket, peer pressure to participate and the insensitivity towards Muslim players and supporters;
• Incidents of racist comments from YCCC supporters and incidents of alcohol being thrown at matches, including on Asian supporters, which were not investigated or properly addressed by YCCC; and
• A culture in which Asian families of players and Asian supporters were treated differently and were not included.
Rafiq has started a Crowd Justice page to raise awareness and funds. He would be grateful if you could hyperlink it with your reporting: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/azeem-rafiq/