Racism cost me my career – Azeem Rafiq reveals full extent of harrowing abuse

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Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to MPs on his experiences of racism in cricket (House of Commons Handout/PA) (PA Media)
Azeem Rafiq gave evidence to MPs on his experiences of racism in cricket (House of Commons Handout/PA) (PA Media)

Yorkshire whistleblower Azeem Rafiq has laid bare the full extent of his harrowing experience of racism in cricket during a explosive and emotional appearance in front of MPs.

Rafiq has been waiting for the chance to air his full allegations in the public arena and Tuesday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing offered him the chance to speak with the protection of parliamentary privilege – a freedom he used to issue a raft of previously unheard claims.

As well as going into disturbing details of his time at Headingley, the 30-year-old took his accusations close to the top of the game, suggesting racially derogatory use of the term ‘Kevin’ by former team-mate Gary Ballance was “an open secret in the England dressing room”. He further alleged that another former England batter, Alex Hales had given a dog the name because it was black.

You had people who were openly racist and you had the bystanders. No-one felt it was important

Azeem Rafiq

Rafiq’s voice cracked and he fought back tears on several occasions, but he spoke with clarity and resolve for almost an hour and 40 minutes, interrupted only by one brief adjournment when emotion got the better of him.

Rafiq concluded that racial discrimination, and his decision to take a stand against it, had cost him his career in a sport that he feels has ingrained problems above and beyond his own story.

Most graphically of all, Rafiq revealed that as an aspiring 15-year-old club cricketer he had been restrained while red wine was poured down his throat by a former Yorkshire and Hampshire player.

Asked if he could identify a single individual who had stood up for him or called out acts of racism at the time, he was unable to summon a name, adding: “You had people who were openly racist and you had the bystanders. No-one felt it was important.”

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