Azeem Rafiq: Joe Root's comments about not seeing racism at Yorkshire were 'hurtful'

Rafiq claims relationship with Gary Ballance was 'toxic' during moving testimony

Azeem Rafiq has told a parliamentary inquiry he found Joe Root's assertion that he never witnessed racism at Yorkshire as "hurtful".
Giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee hearing on Yorkshire's investigation into Rafiq's claims of institutional racism at the club, Rafiq was at pains to state that Root, the England Test captain, had never used racist language himself. But Rafiq said he found Root's comments "strange" and an indication of how "normal" the use of such language was at the club.
Root, a Yorkshire player since 2009, issued a statement last week calling for "change and actions" at the club to ensure "a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities". Asked if he had seen any incidents of racism at the club, Root said: "Not that I can recall, no I can't. But it is clear things have happened at the club and we have to make sure we eradicate it."
His comments followed an admission from Gary Ballance, the Yorkshire batter and Root's former housemate, that he had used the slur "P**i", which was deemed as "banter" in the club's report into Rafiq's claims.
"To be clear, Root is a good man," Rafiq told the hearing on Tuesday. "He's never engaged in racist language. I found [his statement] hurtful, because Rooty was not only Gary's housemate but, before he started playing for England, he was involved in a lot of those socialising nights out where I'd been called a P**i.
"He might not remember it, but it just shows how normal it was in that environment, in that institution, that even a good man like him doesn't see it for what it is. It was strange, but it's the environment and the institution that made it such a norm that people don't remember it. And it's not going to affect Joe. It's something I remember every day. But I don't expect Joe to."
Addressing the DCMS committee, Rafiq doubled down on his criticism of Ballance, who had addressed the initial allegations by speaking of a deep and lasting friendship between the pair. This characterisation was inaccurate, Rafiq said, adding their relationship went downhill in 2013 and had become "toxic" by the time Ballance was named club captain in 2017.
Asked by Julian Knight MP, the committee chair, about references to the word "Kevin" in the Yorkshire report, Rafiq explained that this was a derogatory word used by Ballance to describe non-white team-mates. "It was an open secret in the England dressing room," he said. "Anyone who came across Gary would know that was a phrase he would use to describe people of colour."
Rafiq also alleged that Alex Hales, the former England batter, had been one of those players to pick up on the word, and even went so far as to name his dog 'Kevin' because it was black. "It's disgusting how much of a joke it was," Rafiq added.
Rafiq told Tuesday's hearing that it was important for the inquiry not to focus on individuals, including the former Yorkshire and England captain, Michael Vaughan, who revealed in his column for The Telegraph that his name appeared in the report, where Rafiq alleged he had noted the inclusion of four players of Asian heritage in the Yorkshire side and said: "There are too many of you lot; we need to do something about it."
Vaughan denies those allegations, even though Rafiq's recollections have since been corroborated by two of the Asian players who were present in the team, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Adil Rashid.
"I think it's important on Michael [Vaughan] that we don't make it all about Michael," Rafiq said. "It was a long time ago, Michael might not remember it as I said about earlier because it doesn't mean anything. But three of us remember it.
"He used his platform at the Daily Telegraph to tell everyone that he hadn't said these things but then to go and put a snippet of my statement out and then talk about other things, I thought was completely wrong."
During his testimony, Rafiq revealed that as a 15-year-old playing for his local cricket club, he was pinned down in a car and had wine poured down his throat by another player.
"The first instance of drinking, I actually got pinned down at my local cricket club and red wine got poured down my throat," Rafiq said. "The player played for Yorkshire, played for Hampshire.
"I didn't touch alcohol until about 2012 and around that time I felt like I had to do that to fit in. I regret that, but it has no bearing on the things that I was called."
Rafiq also gave a moving account of the toll his experiences of racism, and subsequently speaking out about it had on him and his family, including his wife.
"Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes I do," Rafiq said. "Hopefully in five years time we're gong to see a big change and I can look back at it that I did something that is far bigger than any runs I got or any wickets I got. But it's horrible, it hurts."
"We've got two young kids and they've not had a dad really because all I've been worried about is Yorkshire going out to discredit me and how I'm going to deal with it. Dealing with lawyers, dealing with press. [It's been] challenging but I just hope today provides some sort of closure and I can treat her for what she deserves."