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England captain Joe Root has called for change at Yorkshire in response to the racism crisis that has “fractured our game and torn lives apart” but says he cannot recall any discrimination during his long career with the club.
Root is the best, and best known, Yorkshire player of his generation but his voice had been largely absent from the story that started over a year ago with Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism but has escalated to engulf the White Rose in recent weeks.
He chose to enter the fray on Thursday, issuing a statement from England’s Ashes training camp on the Gold Coast, in which he condemned all racism as “intolerable” and called for direct action at Yorkshire.
The 30-year-old, who made his second XI debut for the club in 2007, also offered his assistance to newly-appointed chair Lord Kamlesh Patel as he attempts to pick up the pieces amid a slew of fresh claims from former players.
Root wrote: “In my capacity as England captain and as a senior player at Yorkshire, I feel compelled to address the current situation that has consumed the sport and YCCC.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting. There is no debate about racism, no one side or other. It is simply intolerable.
“These events have fractured our game and torn lives apart. I want to see change and actions that will see YCCC rise from this with a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities that support cricket in the county.
“I will reach out to YCCC new chair, Lord Patel, to offer support however I’m able. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think we need to educate more and earlier; we must call it out straight away and have our eyes and ears open more.
“Inclusivity, diversity and anti-discrimination is something over the past few years the England teams I have been involved in have spent a lot of time talking about and are very passionate about improving and making a big difference.”
Some of the biggest names during Root’s time with Yorkshire have seen claims made against them. His friend and mentor Michael Vaughan completely denies making an offensive comment to a group of Asian team-mates over a decade ago, former flatmate Gary Ballance has admitted using a “racial slur” against Rafiq during a close friendship and former club captain Andrew Gale is currently suspended from his post as head coach pending the investigation of an offensive historic tweet.
But Root made it clear he had not personally witnessed any such behaviour.
During a video conference call with the media he said: “Not that I can recall, no. I think when I look back now, I can’t.
“I can only speak from my personal experiences. But it is clear things have happened at the club and we have to make sure we eradicate it. We look to find ways to make sure this never happens again in the sport and, beyond that, in society.
“The thing that’s really disappointing is that this has happened, and we have to find a way to move forward. We have to look at finding a way to educate as much as we can and make sure these are hard learnings that we can eradicate from the sport, and make sure that moving forward as a county we really can make a difference in this area.”
A slew of commercial sponsors have severed ties with the club over the past fortnight but Root has not been tempted to take his own powerful brand as English cricket’s figurehead elsewhere.
“It’s obviously deeply hurtful that it’s happened at a club that I’m so close to,” he said.
“But in terms of my position, if you’re not at the club how can you make any change? How can you help move things forward? That’s my position on things and we’ll see how that happens in the future.”
One of Root’s current team-mates in Australia, Ollie Robinson, found himself at the centre of a discrimination storm earlier this year following the emergence of his own historic tweets. He went on to offer several apologies, stressed that he is now a different person and worked with the Professional Cricketers’ Association on inclusivity training.
“I do think people deserve a second chance,” Root added on the subjects of potential punishments.
“If they are willing to accept that they’ve made a mistake and they want to make change and want to move forward, I think that’s really important as well.
“We are all human beings and I think that’s something that we have to remember within this. Of course people have been deeply hurt throughout this whole thing but ultimately we have to find a way to move forward.”
Meanwhile, Patel confirmed reports that a “troubling” letter had been received by the Yorkshire board a month ago. The Daily Telegraph stated that a group of staff members had written outlining their disappointment at the club’s recent apologies to Rafiq and making their own criticisms of the former spinner.
Patel said the note was “further evidence of the wider issues the club has faced”.