Home Blogs The Yorkshire Racism Affair – Part 2!

The Yorkshire Racism Affair – Part 2!

by Tractor

Last month, musing with relatives about what I should write about, I suggested the racism story at Yorkshire. One listener, who shall remain nameless, told me ‘yeah but it’s all over, now’. I disagreed and decided to plough on and discuss it anyway, thinking there was still plenty left to come out.

Huh. And then some.

In the last month, the Select Committee for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport heard evidence from Rafiq himself, going into far greater detail about his claims than the redacted Yorkshire report had previously acknowledged. What is most saddening is that there are still people who heard that testimony and still responded with ‘yes, but…’. As long as people still feel that way, then we do still have a problem with racism in this country and among the players, staff and supporters of cricket.

Like many, I have been pretty horrified (though not in the least surprised) by Michael Vaughan’s response. Normally one to speak his mind on every passing news story – including his public suggestion a few years back that Moeen Ali should spend his free time knocking on Muslims’ doors to prevent terrorism – he was suspiciously quiet from the outset. And since his name has been linked to the case, having allegedly said that ‘there are too many of your lot’ when Yorkshire marked the momentous occasion of having four Asian players in their county line up, Vaughan has given a masterclass in how to make things worse.

He has denied ever making the comments, and since had two others say they recollect them clearly; he refused to appear before the original Yorkshire panel, supposedly because he was not promised anonymity, and now learned that anonymity is thin on the ground amidst such allegations; he has spoken again recently to say that the problem is bigger than one person and he wants to see change, as well as being ‘sorry for any hurt’ caused. Is he reading from the politicians’ apology book of the 1990s? He has literally tweeted a complaint about the racial diversity in London! Why doesn’t he realise that this kind of thing just doesn’t wash anymore? If it saves us a winter of his commentary on BT Sport then there are, at least, silver linings to the cloud Vaughan has cast over himself.

You will note that there has been none of the same level of scandal around David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, who was also revealed to have made racist comments to one of the journalists covering Rafiq’s initial allegations. Lloyd’s comments were crass, generalised stereotypes and presumably meant in a bantering rather than highly insulting way, as I am sure Vaughan would say about his own alleged remarks, but Lloyd came out on the front foot to apologise straight away, unreservedly. Rafiq did the same when his Anti-Semitic social media posts were made public.

I don’t think anyone is expecting perfection from cricketers. That would definitely be unfair. It seems we can’t expect the individuals involved to just come right out and say sorry, with their hands up, and recognise that racism isn’t just skinheads with Molotov cocktails creating a culture of fear and violence in 80s northern cities but is also any conduct that demeans a minority who come with centuries of racism and exploitation behind them. I would have thought we could, at least, expect some decent crisis management in the sport, though, with all the money flying around the game these days and the length of time everybody involved has had to prepare for their identity to become public.

It shouldn’t take the levels of diversity awareness training now being rolled out, either. Last year, after speaking to an online audience of mostly British-Ghanaian families as part of my school work, I received an email to point out that I should avoid using the term ‘my golly’ as in ‘oh my golly gosh’ because of its racist undertones and the whole history of golly wogs. Understandably my first (private) reaction was to rage: really? But I had used it specifically in the context of not saying ‘my God’ because I knew how many of the audience were likely to be religious – and I was pretty sure that I managed to change it to ‘my goodness’ at the last minute anyway as I don’t think the word ‘golly’ had ever left my mouth. I felt stung, as I had been trying so hard to be actively inclusive and specifically not racist. It hurt to be ‘accused’ of racist language (even though the person emailing in had been very clear to send it as a gentle ‘pointing out’ to let me know, rather than an actual complaint).

I can only imagine this is how people like Michael Vaughan, Gary Balance and Alex Hales felt, even though their alleged behaviour was far more extreme and repeated than my own. But then, without needing to be told how to do it by my boss, or by a crisis management consultant, or in reference to diversity awareness training, my next response was to send a heartfelt apology. Interestingly enough, I was prevented from doing so by my organisation, which clearly wanted to keep a lid on the whole affair. So perhaps Yorkshire CCC isn’t as much as an outlier as we would like to think.

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