Azeem Rafiq says he is “determined” that sharing his experiences of racism in Yorkshire will be the time when “not just sport but society as a whole” moves in a different direction.
The former Yorkshireman told BBC sports editor Dan Roan that he was “incredibly relieved” to have given his emotional and heartbreaking account of the racist abuse he suffered in two stints at the club.
“It is really important that the game and society in general listen to my experiences and we do not let this moment pass and we try to use this as a defining moment for the future,” he said.
Rafiq, who spent two seasons in Yorkshire between 2008-14 and 2016-18, said his father had told him how proud he was of him after giving his testimony to MPs.
“He said that no amount of racing or terrain could have done what I did and that I should be really proud of myself,” he said.
“I have no doubt that racism cost me my career, but I believe in Allah and that everything happens for a reason.
“What I have been able to do and hopefully what we will all be able to do in the future will be more powerful than any race and window or Ashes and World Cups.”
Rafiq added that he had received death threats throughout the process after speaking out for the first time last year, claiming that “institutional racism” in Yorkshire brought him close to taking his own life.
“We have had threats everywhere, of different kinds, but it comes with the territory,” he said.
“There are a lot of people in denial and it’s sad, but I hope we can get over it.”
He added that someone had recently tried to claim that he had a bomb at his local store.
“It’s something we’ve lived with our entire lives,” he said.
“I am very determined that this is seen as the time when not only sport, but society as a whole took a different direction than it had been going.”
‘Floodgates’ will open for similar cases
Rafiq told the DCMS select committee how racist language was used “constantly” at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club and how he received “inhumane” treatment after his son was stillborn in 2017.
He added that the problems he faced in Yorkshire are “without a shadow of a doubt” widespread in national cricket.
Rafiq said Wednesday that he expects the “floodgates” to open and similar cases emerge in county cricket, and that he had already spoken to “some people” since his testimony.
He said that while the process had been “horrible” and was still “unbelievably crude,” he would “be there” for anyone else who shows up.
“You have to be honest and you have to show up and vent, you’re going to be heard,” he said.
“Whether someone else supports you or not, I will be by your side.
“Hopefully people will be believed and listened to a lot more and people can trust that.”
Former Essex players Zoheb Sharif and Maurice Chambers have alleged racism at the club in recent days.
Sharif told BBC Sport Rafiq raising his voice empowered him to speak out about the racist abuse he faced.
Patience with the ECB ‘begins to run out’
The Executive Director of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Tom Harrison, told the DCMS select committee that the The ECB had “fought” to make the world-class game “wake up” on racism.
Rafiq said Harrison only has “a few months where we need to see some tangible changes” because “everyone’s patience is starting to wear thin.”
“It’s very easy to throw the book to Yorkshire,” Rafiq added.
“As we will discover in the coming days and weeks, it is not just a Yorkshire problem. The responsibility lies with the ECB.”
Rafiq said that both the ECB and the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) “disappointed me” and that there must be “responsibility” in both organizations.
“You have to analyze the PCA and how they operate, because it didn’t seem like a union to me,” he added.
“It seems that the game has become so corporate and has lost the human touch.”
In a statement, the ECB said: “Azeem has shown incredible courage in speaking out, and we are appalled by what he has experienced. His evidence was heartbreaking, and this must be a turning point for our game.
“We strongly condemn racism or discrimination of any kind and there is no place for it in our game. We are thoroughly investigating these events, we will take the necessary action and we must learn lessons like a game.”
While the PCA said it has a “firm and fair relationship with the ECB and all stakeholders in the game.”
“We challenge them as needed as an essential part of how we represent the best interests of our members,” he said in a statement.
“This has been the case throughout this particular issue and it has been well documented.”
Rafiq on denials and apologies
Rafiq says the focus should be on institutions rather than individuals, although his testimony and witness statements necessarily include specific allegations against named individuals.
He alleges that former England captain and BBC cricket expert Michael Vaughan said “a lot of you, we have to do something about it” with him and three other Asian players in 2009 while they were all in Yorkshire.
England’s bowler Adil Rashid and former Pakistani bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan have corroborated the allegation, which Vaughan “denies completely and categorically.”
When asked about Vaughan, Rafiq said: “With people in denial, there must be a level of responsibility there and their employers must send a message: are they going to green light racism or are they going to seal it off?
“I am disappointed in the denials of many people. It may not mean much to them, I can live with that.
“But trying to deny it completely and realize that everything is made up in my head is painful.”
He also criticized Yorkshire cricket director Martyn Moxon, who is absent from work due to a “stress-related illness,” and former chief executive Mark Arthur, who resigned last week, for failing to attend Tuesday’s hearing.
“The fact that they did not do so should show the Yorkshire members and the people who are still by their side exactly how they have behaved during this period,” he said.
“Being with them now means that you are not just part of the problem, you are the problem.”
However, Rafiq said he will accept those who come up to apologize.
Rafiq said Tuesday that Sky Sports commentator David Lloyd, a former Lancashire captain and England player and later coach, had made disparaging comments about Asian cricketers after Rafiq spoke about his experiences on television.
Lloyd issued a public apology and Sky is investigating Rafiq’s claims.
“David Lloyd came up and apologized to me personally,” Rafiq added.
“I told him that was all I ever wanted and I told him it hurt, that I was completely out of commission and he doesn’t even know me.
“He is deeply sorry and I accept his apology.”