Former England international Gary Ballance has said he “regrets” using a racial slur against his former Yorkshire teammate Azeem Rafiq.
In a long and emotional statement, Ballance said he was responsible for some of the offensive terms that Rafiq was subjected to during his time at Headingley.
“It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I said in the independent investigation, I accept that I did and I am sorry I did,” said Ballance, 31.
“To be clear, I deeply regret some of the language I used in my youth.”
Ballance, who played 23 test matches for England, said that Rafiq was his “best cricket partner” and that he “cared a lot about him”, adding that “on the pitch we support each other a lot.”
“I don’t want to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other that, outside of that context, would be considered totally inappropriate” Ballance added.
“I am sorry that these exchanges took place, but at no time did I believe or understand that they had caused Rafa distress.
“If I had believed that, I would have stopped immediately. He was my best friend in cricket and I cared a lot about him. As far as I know, there has never been any allegation that I made Rafa cry.”
Balance, born in Zimbabwe, added: “That does not mean that what happened between us is correct or appropriate. It was not. Rafa told me things that were not acceptable and I did the same with Rafa. I never said anything with malicious intent.” . or to upset Rafa.
“I am aware of how hurtful racial slur is and I regret having used this word in immature exchanges in my youth and I am sure that Rafa also feels the same about some of the things he said to me.”
ESPN Cricinfo published an interview with Rafiq in September 2020 in which he claimed that “institutional racism” at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club left him close to taking his life.
In September this year, Yorkshire released the report’s findings, which said that Rafiq was a “victim of racial harassment and intimidation” with seven of the 43 allegations made by the player confirmed by an independent panel.
In October, Yorkshire said it conducted its own internal investigation after the report’s findings and concluded that “there is no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action.”
More to follow.