Azeem Rafiq apologises for antisemitic messages sent to another player in 2011
Azeem Rafiq has apologised after it was revealed he had sent antisemitic messages to a fellow cricketer more than a decade ago.
The former Yorkshire spin bowler has won widespread praise for his resolve and courage in exposing the issue of racial discrimination in cricket and appeared before a parliamentary select committee this week to reveal his own bitter experiences during his playing days at Headingley.
The 30-year-old named a number of high-profile individuals during his Westminster appearance but, on Thursday, he was forced to confront his own shortcomings in the past when The Times (£) uncovered an exchange with former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid.
Historical messages with Javid were revealed when the then 19-year-old Rafiq accused a third player of being reluctant to spend money at a team dinner because “he is a Jew”.
He added the player would “probs go after my 2nds [second helping of food] again ha”, adding: “Only Jews do tht [sic] sort of shit.”
The timing of the revelations come during a watershed week for the sport when it has been forced to confront its attitudes towards racism and bullying, following Rafiq’s testimony. Apologising for the incident, Rafiq said on Twitter: “I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today. I have gone back to check my account and it is me – I have absolutely no excuses.
“I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence. I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today. I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this.”
The development and the timing of the news will be a source of deep embarrassment to Rafiq who this month settled an employment tribunal with Yorkshire but has vowed to stand alongside other victims of abuse and use his platform to become the “voice of the voiceless”.
Speaking to BBC Sport after his appearance in front of the parliamentary DCMS committee, he told victims of discrimination: “Whether anyone else stands by you or not, I’ll stand by you. Hopefully people will be believed and heard a lot more and people can take confidence from that.” He also predicted that his case would lead to the “floodgates” opening and that the number of cricketers coming forward to tell their stories could run into the thousands.
The co-chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council Claudia Mendoza said Rafiq’s apology was “massively awkward” but added he had “taken full ownership” of the situation.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Azeem Rafiq has suffered terribly at the hands of racists in cricket so he will well understand the hurt this exchange will cause to Jews who have supported him. His apology certainly seems heartfelt and we have no reason to believe he is not completely sincere.”