Yorkshire player cleared over Azeem Rafiq racism abuse after comments deemed as 'banter'

·3-min read
Azeem Rafiq fumes as Yorkshire announce no action to be taken over racism allegations - GETTY IMAGES
Azeem Rafiq fumes as Yorkshire announce no action to be taken over racism allegations - GETTY IMAGES

A current Yorkshire player was cleared of wrongdoing in the Azeem Rafiq racism report despite admitting to regularly using the term "P--i" when talking to him, it has been claimed.

The player also admitted in the report to telling other people "don't talk to him [Rafiq], he's a P--i", and asking "is that your uncle?" when they saw bearded Asian men, according to the ESPNcricinfo website.

Some of the claims had already been raised publicly by Rafiq prior to the investigation being launched, but this is the first time it has been alleged the player in question has admitted the allegations are true.

Investigators reportedly spared him of any potential blame on the basis that it was perceived as friendly, good-natured "banter" between the two players. The Telegraph is unable to verify the new claims as Yorkshire has so far only provided a summary of its findings. Representatives for Yorkshire and Rafiq have been contacted for comment.

It is claimed that even after Rafiq broke down in tears, the player insisted he had no idea he was causing offence.

While clearing the player over the "P--i" comment, the panel tasked with making conclusions and recommendations is said to have separately criticised Rafiq for using "offensive, racially derogatory comments" when referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage as "Zimbo from Zimbabwe".

The conclusion has shocked fiends of Rafiq, who point out that while "p--i" is a long-established derogatory term with a history of racist usage, "Zimbo" is generally held to be an abbreviation such as "Aussie or Kiwi".

The panel, however, is said to recommend that were Rafiq still a Yorkshire player, he should face disciplinary action for using "Zimbo".

The investigating team were said to have found the "p--i" comments "capable of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment", but the panel - which included a non-executive member of the Yorkshire board - disagreed.

"The panel does not accept that Azeem was offended by [the other player's] comments, either at the time they were made or subsequently," their conclusions are reported to state.

In the context of "banter between friends", Rafiq might be "expected to take such comments in the spirit in which they were intended… [so] it was not reasonable for Azeem to have been offended by [the other player] directing equally offensive or derogatory comments back at him in the same spirit of friendly banter."

The fresh revelations come after the England and Wales Cricket Board were urged by senior MPs to warn Yorkshire of sanctions over "one of the most disquieting episodes in cricket history".

Members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee have reserved their right to haul officials before them while the club "drags its feet" over the row.

Julian Knight, chairman of the committee, was in contact with the ECB on Friday to add his voice to mounting concern after the club ruled out any disciplinary action.

Mr Knight told Telegraph Sport the governing body should use its "leverage" by warning Yorkshire it could be stripped of a Test match.

"This is one of the most disquieting episodes in cricket history," said the Tory MP amid ongoing delays in Yorkshire releasing a full unredacted report, which confirms Rafiq was subjected to racism.

It is well over a year since Yorkshire launched the probe into allegations of institutionalised racism raised by the former bowler, who said his experiences at the club left him on the brink of suicide.

After weeks of criticism over delays in publishing the findings, the club released a summarised report on Sept 10 recognising that seven of 40-plus allegations outlined by Rafiq had been upheld following a 12 month inquiry.

However, following an "internal review" sparked by the findings, the club announced last week that "there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action".

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