Nike has become the latest sponsor to abandon Yorkshire County Cricket Club over its handling of an internal investigation into racism within the club.
Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq last year revealed how “institutional racism” had left him contemplating taking his own life. An investigation by an independent panel upheld only seven of his 43 allegations due to “insufficient evidence”, but did find Rafiq had been the victim of racial harassment and bullying.
As such, numerous sponsors have turned their backs on Yorkshire CCC, with Nike now cancelling its kit deal with the club.
“Nike will no longer be the kit supplier for Yorkshire CCC,” read a statement released by the sports clothing brand on Thursday, per the Evening Standard.
“We stand firmly against racism and discrimination of any kind.”
Nike only began its partnership with Yorkshire CCC in March of this year, signing a four-year deal with the club.
Emerald Publishing released a statement on Wednesday afternoon announcing the company would remove all branding from the club and from its Headingley Stadium, and called on Yorkshire to “respond with serious action to eradicate racism”.
“We do not tolerate any form of racism or discriminatory behaviour and the damaging effects this has,” Emerald said. “Our intention remains to continue a financial commitment to the stadium itself, which is also the home of Leeds Rhinos rugby, as we believe this supports the aims of diversity and inclusion in sport along with a range of charitable community endeavours. Emerald will however no longer sponsor Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
“We hope that YCCC will listen and respond with serious action to eradicate racism from the club and uphold the values we all expect.”
The move by Emerald followed the decision by Arla Foods not to renew its sponsorship of the county’s 50-over team, as reported by the Daily Mail. A long-held local backer, Tetley’s brewery, is also considering its position following the scandal.
Meanwhile, Yorkshire Tea brought its partnership with the cricket club to a premature end, writing in a statement on Wednesday: “We were upset to read about the experiences of Azeem Rafiq during his time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
“We wholeheartedly believe that cricket should be a sport for everyone, but his experiences and the way the panel report has been handled don’t reflect that.
“Our current partnership with YCCC was naturally coming to an end but we have taken the decision to end it with immediate effect.”
On Tuesday, Julian Knight MP accused Yorkshire of “victim-blaming” Rafiq in their investigation. According to ESPN, Yorkshire’s report included a player repeatedly referring to Rafiq as a “P***”. Despite that the panel did not uphold this allegation, with ESPN reporting the panel found Rafiq used the word “Zimbo” when referring to a player of Zimbabwean heritage.
Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, was astonished by Yorkshire’s position. He told the Today programme: “There is a degree of victim blaming in the leaked report, where they equate Rafiq using ‘Zim’ for Zimbabwean as the same as the P-word. It is not the same. The idea of them using that as victim-blaming or to excuse their actions is absolutely appalling.”
The DCMS committee announced on Tuesday that Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton had been called to give evidence on its handling of Rafiq’s allegations, and Rafiq himself and other members of the county hierarchy have also been invited.
Additional reporting by PA