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Ryan Sidebottom apologises after calling for Yorkshire to 'forget' racism scandal

Interim coach criticised by Azeem Rafiq after 'poor choice of words' in Sky interview

Jack Brooks, Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Ryan Sidebottom pose with the trophy, Middlesex v Yorkshire, County Championship, Division One, Lord's, September 12, 2015

Ryan Sidebottom was a long-standing member of Yorkshire's Championship team  •  Sarah Ansell/Getty Images

Ryan Sidebottom, Yorkshire's interim coach, has apologised for his "poor choice of words" on the subject of the club's racism scandal, during an interview with Sky Sports.
Sidebottom was appointed last week to work under the club's new director of cricket, Darren Gough, in the wake of the sacking of 16 members of staff, including Gough's predecessor Martyn Moxon and Andrew Gale, the former first-team coach.
That purge followed the resignation of chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur, in the wake of damning testimony from Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire allrounder, who told a parliamentary select committee hearing in November that he had been the victim of institutional racism during his time at the club.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Sidebottom - who had two spells at Yorkshire between 1997 and 2017, and was a three-times County Championship winner in 2001, 2014 and 2015, - said: "It's been tough viewing, tough listening, seeing social media. It's been very difficult for lots of reasons for a lot of people.
"Let's try and forget about it. There's no room for racism in any walk of life and hopefully now we can move forward, sort things out, do the right thing and get Yorkshire firing on all cylinders.
"But it's been a tough couple of months, hasn't it, for Yorkshire and everyone involved at the club."
Asked if he had heard any racist language during his time at the club, which overlapped with Rafiq's spell between 2008 and 2017, Sidebottom said: "Not necessarily. For me personally, I just got on with my cricket and all players."
Rafiq responded to Sidebottom's comments by posting the video of his interview on Twitter, alongside the comment: "Let's definitely not just 'Forget it' Learn from it and make things better. Wish it was that easy just to forget it and pretend nothing happened."
Amid a subsequent backlash, Sidebottom later added an apology on Twitter, saying: "I'm truly sorry for any offence caused earlier by my words on @skysportsnews @SkyCricket.
"We should never forget, we must learn. I never meant to say forget. My choice of words were wrong, and an honest mistake. Here's what I meant.
"I disagree wholeheartedly with discrimination and fully support all investigations and actions surrounding any racial abuse at Yorkshire CCC."
The furore is another setback to Yorkshire's hopes of a swift resolution to a saga that has wrecked the club's reputation, and left it facing financial ruin following the withdrawal of a raft of major sponsors and the ECB's subsequent decision to strip Headingley of the right to host major matches.
On Friday, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee is due to publish its own report into racism in cricket, following the conclusion of a series of parliamentary hearings last year.
With the ECB's investigation into Yorkshire's handling of Rafiq's allegations still ongoing, the club has been given a spring deadline to "clearly demonstrate that it can meet the standards expected" to host its two scheduled internationals this year, a Test against New Zealand starting June 23, and a subsequent ODI against South Africa in July.
However, writing in the Yorkshire Post, the club's recently appointed chairman, Lord Kamlesh Patel, insisted that Yorkshire was ready to move on from the crisis that beset it last year.
"As we enter 2022, I firmly believe that Yorkshire County Cricket Club has made significant progress on the long journey to win back pride, as we aim to become that beacon to which the rest of the sport can aspire," Patel wrote. "We have taken a long, hard and honest look at the club and what we need to do: to understand individual experiences of discrimination; to review the structures and leadership of the club; and to get under the hood of our culture."
Meanwhile, Yorkshire's proposed fixture against Lahore Qalandars at Gaddafi Stadium has been postponed. The club were due to travel to Pakistan following their tie-in with the PSL franchise, but the fixture has been mothballed amid concerns around the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. The two clubs still plan to hold joint county-wide trials in the summer.