Former Yorkshire employees describe experiences of racism as part of Azeem Rafiq investigation
Evidence reveals "continuous references to taxi drivers and restaurant workers" in relation to Asian community
Former Yorkshire players and employees have given evidence in support of Azeem Rafiq as part of the investigation into allegations of institutional racism at the club. Rafiq spoke out about his experiences at Yorkshire this summer, telling ESPNcricinfo in September that he had been close to committing suicide after what he experienced. He was interviewed by the independent investigating team last month, and said that he had been "bullied and targeted because of my race".
Two former Yorkshire employees to have given evidence were Taj Butt and Tony Bowry. Butt, who was employed within the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation as a community development officer, offered his resignation within six weeks of joining, which he said was due to targeted language used at the club.
"[There were] continuous references to taxi drivers and restaurant workers when referring to [the] Asian community," he said. "They called every person of colour 'Steve'. Even [India batsman] Cheteshwar Pujara, who joined as an overseas professional, was called Steve because they could not pronounce his name."
Bowry worked at the club as a coach until 1996 and as a cultural diversity officer at the Yorkshire Cricket Board from 1996 until 2011, before he was appointed as a cricket development manager to develop the game for black communities.
"Many youngsters struggled to make progress, and the few that did found the environment of the dressing rooms very difficult and unwelcoming, as a direct result of racism they faced," he said. "It affected performance… they were labelled trouble-makers."
Tino Best, the former West Indies fast bowler who played at the club in 2010, and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, the former Pakistan seamer who joined as an overseas player between 2008 and 2009, both reiterated their previous support for Rafiq.
Yorkshire announced last month that they will appoint a head of equality in a bid to boost inclusion after the ECB revealed a number of new measures to tackle discrimination.
Rafiq welcomed the measures both organisations had taken, and said that he would seek "an urgent meeting" with the ECB in order to discuss "how we can instil cultural and racial acceptance through all age groups".
"Part of the problem I faced was that my concerns and complaints fell on deaf ears," Rafiq said. "I raised complaints about racism, including with the head of diversity, and no one took action. The key to change is to listen and then to keep listening."
In response, Yorkshire said in a statement to ESPNcricinfo: "We recognise that county clubs, with their vast pipeline of talent across age groups, are crucial to ensuring equality and addressing issues of racism in cricket. We wholeheartedly support the recently announced ECB initiatives and want to be part of meaningful change across all levels of the game.
"In addition to the ECB measures, we will also seek to implement the recommendations due to be made by the independent investigation panel considering the allegations made by our former player, Azeem Rafiq. We appreciate that this is a distressing time for all involved, but this is an important investigation and we have committed to a full and thorough process to provide an in-depth set of recommendations which we will publish in early 2021.
"Cricket is enjoyed by diverse audiences throughout the UK and around the world but it is clear that we must do much more to improve inclusion, address issues of inequality and truly reflect and embrace the many communities who contribute so much to our sport."
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98