Joe Root calls on English cricket to unite in wake of Yorkshire racism scandal
"These events have fractured our game and torn lives apart. We must now recover and come back together"
Joe Root, England's captain, has pledged to stick by Yorkshire in spite of the current turmoil surrounding the club, and help to reform it from within, as he called on the sport, and wider society, to "eradicate" the scourge of racism.
Speaking from England's Ashes touring base in Queensland, Root said that the revelations around Yorkshire's investigation into allegations of institutional racism by former team-mate Azeem Rafiq had "fractured our game and torn lives apart", adding that the situation had hurt him personally but that he wanted to be part of the solution.
Yorkshire were last week stripped of the right to host international fixtures by the ECB, following leaked findings of an independent panel's report on claims made by Rafiq. Yorkshire admitted that Rafiq had been a victim of racial harassment but opted to take no action against any current players or members of staff.
Yorkshire's chair, Roger Hutton, subsequently stepped down, with the ECB appointing a QC to look into the club's handling of the report.
Root, who said that he could not recall having observed any racism first-hand during his time at Yorkshire, said it was important to acknowledge the problem before seeking answers.
"It's obviously deeply hurtful that it's happened at a club that I'm so close to," he said. "It means so much for me to go and play for Yorkshire. In terms of my position - if you're not at the club how can you make any change? How can you help move things forward? As I said, I look forward to speaking to Lord Patel at some point in the future about how I can help move things forward. That's my position on things and we'll see how that happens in the future.
"The most important thing that we have to look at right now how we move forward as a sport, how we move forward as a society as well. I think this is deeper than just cricket," Root added. "I think what we need to do is address what's happened and find ways of educating moving forward, and really looking at areas in which we as a as a sport and beyond that as well.
"It's really important that we recognise what has happened [and] we make sure that moving forward we never see this happen again. And whether it's in Yorkshire, whether it's in club cricket, whether it's in the street, or whatever. We've got to find a way of confronting this and stopping it and making sure that, absolutely, we are getting rid of racism from society."
November 11, 2021
In a statement released in advance, Root said that "it hurts knowing this has happened at YCCC, so close to home", and offered his support to Lord Patel, Yorkshire's new chair.
"These events have fractured our game and torn lives apart," he wrote. "We must now recover and come back together as fans, players, media, and those who work within cricket. We have an opportunity to make the sport I love better for everyone.
"I want to see change and actions that will see YCCC rise from this with a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities that support cricket in the county."
Although describing it as a "societal issue", Root urged the ECB, counties, players and officials to do more to tackle discrimination within cricket. "I certainly don't have all the answers, but I think we need to educate more and earlier; we must call it out straight away and have our eyes and ears open more," he wrote.
"In my capacity as England captain and as a senior player at Yorkshire, I feel compelled to address the current situation that has consumed the sport and YCCC.
"I just want the sport to be a place where everyone is enjoying it for the beautiful game it is and feels equal and safe. It hurts knowing this has happened at YCCC so close to home. It's my club that I care passionately about it. I've spent a lot of time reflecting. There is no debate about racism, no one side or other. It is simply intolerable.
"These events have fractured our game and torn lives apart. We must now recover and come back together as fans, players, media, and those who work within cricket. We have an opportunity to make the sport I love better for everyone.
"I want to see change and actions that will see YCCC rise from this with a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities that support cricket in the county.
"We need to educate, unify and reset. I will reach out to YCCC new chair, Lord Patel, to offer support however I'm able.
"We have to find a way to move forward and make sure this never happens again. In my opinion, this is a societal issue and needs addressing further afield than just cricket.
"That being said, we, as a sport, all have to do more. How can we all help shape things moving forward positively? What can everyone from myself, the ECB, counties, players, officials and others in the sport do to improve the state of the game? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I think we need to educate more and earlier; we must call it out straight away and have our eyes and ears open more.
"Inclusivity, diversity and anti-discrimination is something over the past few years the England teams I have been involved in have spent a lot of time talking about and are very passionate about improving and making a big difference. It's a big part of our culture, and we want to celebrate our diversity. We are representing England, and in that, we are representing the multicultural society we live in. We want all the fans to be able to enjoy what we do on the field and feel proud about who's representing them.
"With the Ashes fast approaching, I'd really like the fans back home to unite and get behind us as a team. We will be playing for you all."