Rafiq says backlash he faced as racism whistleblower has deterred other victims
Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq. (Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
AZEEM RAFIQ said many victims of abuse have been deterred coming forward because of the backlash he faced as a whistleblower for racism in English cricket.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee on Friday (14) warned the sport in the country to “clean up its act” on racism or face a cut in government funding.
Former player Rafiq, who gave an emotional testimony to the committee in November about the abuse he faced during his two stints at Yorkshire, has commended the report.
Shortly after his November hearing, Rafiq’s exchange of messages in 2011 emerged, which were antisemitic in nature, and were published by The Times. Rafiq immediately apologised to the Jewish community and says he is continuing to improve his “understanding”.
Rafiq accepts the criticism that he faced for those messages, but says there have been attempts to smear his image.
“The one thing that I want to really pick up on is the antisemitic messages that surfaced, which I’d made when I was younger,” Rafiq told Sky Sports News on Friday (14).
“It’s something I regret massively, I’m angry with myself, but I’ve apologised to the Jewish community, they’ve been incredibly kind and I’m spending more time with them to try to bridge that gap in my understanding of the Jewish community.
“But a lot of other things that happened behind the scenes, and they’ve continued to happen, have been quite atrocious. It’s been ridiculous, some of the fabricated lies, some of the attempts to make my life difficult.
“What it has done is deterred a lot of people from coming forward and I feel that’s what the system tried to do and it’s achieved that. But I do have one message – they can throw anything they want at me, I won’t be backing down from this subject.
“I’m not perfect but none of that excuses the abuse that I suffered and a lot of other people have suffered on a daily basis within the game. It shows in the report that there were attempts behind the scenes, I think some of the committee got calls in the last few hours, the night before the hearing, in attempts to discredit me and talk about my character, but as I’ve said, none of that excuses racism.”
The report said that “the future public funds for cricket are dependent on continuous, demonstrable progress in getting rid of racism.”
When asked what according to him would be the right path to progress, Rafiq said: “It’s important that we don’t look for knee-jerk, quick reactions, which I see a lot of counties attempting to do, sort of going out there trying to speak to a lot of people and offer them little jobs to try to keep them quiet – that’s not the way forward.
“I think we need a lot of education right at the bottom, right at the start – grassroots, and then hopefully organically as the players get more education of each other’s cultures, more understanding, that will build respect and as they get older together, hopefully in four-five years’ time we’ll get to a place where cricket is a welcoming place for everyone.”