Racist abuse within Yorkshire cricket team left Azeem Rafiq ‘close to suicide’

Former England youth captain quit the sport due to ‘institutional racism’ within the county cricket side after feeling he was isolated for his Muslim faith

Thursday 03 September 2020 11:38
Azeem Rafiq quit cricket after suffering from alleged racism during his time at Yorkshire
Azeem Rafiq quit cricket after suffering from alleged racism during his time at Yorkshire

Yorkshire have confirmed they are in contact with Azeem Rafiq after their former player claimed "institutional racism" at the club left him "close to committing suicide".

The 29-year-old ex-England youth captain walked away from cricket after his time at Yorkshire but has now spoken out against the White Rose county.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Rafiq - a spin bowler who also captained Yorkshire in a Twenty20 fixture in 2012 - said he felt that, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an "outsider" and left on the brink of suicide.

"I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire," he said.

"I was living my family's dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day.

"There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret. I'm not proud of it at all.

"But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider. Do I think there is institutional racism? It's at its peak in my opinion. It's worse than it's ever been."

In response to Rafiq's allegations, Yorkshire issued a statement to the Press Association which read: "The club has an Equality and Diversity Committee, chaired by board member Hanif Malik. Hanif is in contact with Azeem about the allegations and will report back to the committee."

Rafiq is not currently working within the game and admitted his claims will damage his chances of doing so in the future - but insists it was the right thing to do.

"Yorkshire don't want to listen and they don't want to change," he added.

"And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I'm talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.

"But not this time. Not again. I know what I'm doing here. I know that by speaking out I'm damaging my chances of working in the game again.

"But I also know it's the right thing to do and if I have to stand alone to do it, I will."

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the national mental health database – Hub of Hope – allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area