David Lloyd issues apology to Azeem Rafiq over comments on Asian players
Sky commentator and former England coach had made disparaging remarks in an exchange with a third party
David Lloyd, the Sky Sports commentator and former England coach, has issued an apology to Azeem Rafiq and the wider Asian cricket community, after admitting to a text message exchange in which he had questioned Rafiq's personal life and called into question the community's willingness to participate in the social side of club cricket.
Speaking at a parliamentary hearing in Westminster on Tuesday, Rafiq spoke about the sport's response to his allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire, and accused "high-profile media people", including Lloyd, of engaging in "denial, briefings, cover-ups, smearing" to damage his credibility.
"It's clear the problem is there," Rafiq said. "Everyone's known it for a very long time. I think it's been an open secret. As I've seen over the last 15 months, if you speak out your life is going to be made hell - and there's no doubt my life [has been made hell].
"I sat in front of national TV and talked about the dark places this whole episode has got me into and what's happened since then? Denial, briefings, cover-ups, smearing.
"High-profile media people messaging other members of the media who supported me saying stuff like, 'The club houses are the life blood of a club and Asian players don't go in there', 'Getting subs out of Asian players is like getting blood out of stone'.
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"And then personally this guy doesn't even know me, has never spent any time with me, is talking about my personal drinking, going out and socialising.
"That was David Lloyd, he's been an England coach, commentator, and I found it disturbing because Sky are supposedly doing this amazing work on bringing racism to the front and within a week of me speaking out that's what I got sent to me.
"And I thought, 'Gosh, there's some closet racists and we need to do something about it'."
Responding on Twitter, Lloyd, 74, acknowledged that he had made an error of judgement in making such generalisations, and pledged to work harder to "make cricket a more inclusive sport".
"In October 2020, I had a private message exchange with a third party involved in cricket, about a number of topics," Lloyd wrote. "In these messages, I referred to allegations about Azeem Rafiq which I had heard from within the game. I also made some comments about the Asian cricket community.
"I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise most sincerely to Azeem and to the Asian cricket community for doing this, and for any offence caused. I am strongly committed to making cricket a more inclusive sport.
"It is very obvious now that more work needs to be done and I will do everything I can to remove discrimination from the sport I love, and the sport that has been my life for over 50 years."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket