Former England U-19 cricketer Azeem Rafiq has claimed his reports of racist behaviour were ignored at Yorkshire and the experience left him on the brink of suicide.
In an interview to ESPNCricinfo, Rafiq said he had chosen to speak out in the hope that others don’t have to go through what he did.
“I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire,” he said. “I was living my family’s dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day.”
He added: “There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret. I’m not proud of it at all. But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider. There were no coaches on the staff from a similar background who understood what it was like.”
His comments cast a harsh light on how Yorkshire CC deals with racism.
The county has a sizeable Asian community and Sachin Tendulkar had become the first overseas player to represent the club in 1992. But Rafiq claims that these gestures meant nothing.
“Yorkshire don’t want to listen and they don’t want to change,” said Rafiq. “And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I’m talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.”
Rafiq had initially spoken about the matter to Wisden but he had not mentioned the club by name then. In response to the story, Yorkshire claimed that he wasn’t talking about them. But the 29-year-old wanted to make sure the world knew exactly who he was speaking about.
“Yorkshire claimed I might not have been talking about them,” said Rafiq. “So let me make it really clear: I am talking about Yorkshire. I believe the club is institutionally racist and I don’t believe they are prepared to acknowledge the fact or willing to change.”
Yorkshire haven’t made a public response to Rafiq yet but these claims, in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, show that things have been slow to change.
Sportspersons around the world have been taking the knee to support the BLM movement sparked by the death of unarmed African-American George Floyd after a Minneapolis policeman kneeled on his neck.
And while that has certainly roused the public, will it bring a permanent change in the decision-making boardrooms as well?