Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq has apologised for using anti-Semitic language in 2011, saying that he has “absolutely no excuses” and is “ashamed” of the message exchange with another cricketer.
The 30-year-old Rafiq, who has described in graphic detail his experiences of racist abuse when he played for Yorkshire, on Thursday admitted he had sent anti-Semitic messages as a 19-year-old.
“I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today (Thursday). I have gone back to check my account and it is me. I have absolutely no excuses,” Rafiq said in a statement. “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.”
The Facebook messages between Rafiq and former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid was first reported by ‘The Times’. Rafiq is seen making disparaging comments about an unnamed Jewish person in the screenshots shared.
“I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended by this. At no point will I ever try and defend the indefensible. For those I have hurt I am sincerely sorry. I will continue to front up & own any more mistakes I have made,” Rafiq added.
Earlier this week, the Pakistan-born former professional cricketer, who moved to England in 2001, had narrated his experiences of racism at Yorkshire to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee.
Rafiq said that racism had destroyed his career. He accused Yorkshire of institutional racism in September last year, prompting the club to launch an investigation into the allegations. However, their handling of the issue has been heavily criticised. A report found Rafiq was a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” but the club refused to take action against anyone.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie Van Der Zyl said: “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.”