Yorkshire says former player was victim of racial harassment

LEEDS, England (AP) — English county cricket team Yorkshire acknowledged on Friday that one of its former players was the victim of racial harassment and bullying.

Azeem Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain, said in interviews last year that as a Muslim he was made to feel like an “outsider” during his time at Yorkshire from 2008-18 and that he was close to taking his own life. Rafiq was Yorkshire’s youngest ever captain when he led the team in a Twenty20 match in 2012.

A formal investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire into Rafiq’s claims and a summary of an independent panel’s findings and recommendations was finally published.

Yorkshire said Rafiq made more than 40 allegations, seven of which were upheld in the report.

“There is no question that Azeem Rafiq, during his first spell as a player at YCCC, was the victim of racial harassment,” Yorkshire chairman Roger Hutton said.

“He was also subsequently the victim of bullying. On behalf of all at YCCC, I wish to extend my sincere, profound and unreserved apologies to Azeem and to his family.”

The report found Rafiq, whose first spell at Yorkshire was from 2008-14, had not been provided with halal food at matches, something which has now been rectified.

It found there were three instances of racist language being used prior to 2010, which amounted to harassment on the grounds of race.

In 2012, a former coach “regularly used” racist language, the report said.

During Rafiq’s second spell, from 2016-18, jokes around religion were made which left individuals feeling uncomfortable, the report found.

Also in that time frame, a reference was made to Rafiq’s weight and fitness which amounted to bullying. The report also accepted that there was a failure by the club in August 2018 to follow up on allegations Rafiq made at that time.

The final allegation to be upheld was that on a number of occasions prior to 2018, the club could have done more to make Muslims feel more welcome within their stadiums and should have dealt better with complaints of racism and anti-social behavior within those stadiums.

The report did find, however, there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the club was institutionally racist.

It also found that all decisions made concerning Rafiq’s selection and ultimate release from the club were entirely based on cricketing reasons.

“I am confident the responsible way that the report has been received by the whole club, together with the clear and collective determination to enthusiastically embrace its recommendations, is an important moment in our journey to become more thoughtful, more inclusive, and to make sure that every aspect of the club fully lives up to the spirit of the great game of cricket,” Hutton said.

Ian Watmore, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, said “the game owes (Rafiq) an apology and we are happy to offer that apology to him.”

“There is simply no place for racism in cricket, and what Azeem experienced was unacceptable,” Watmore said. “The ECB has only seen the statement and summary report for the first time today, so we will now examine the contents in detail to decide what further action is required.”

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