England’s Test captain Joe Root on Thursday said the “intolerable” Yorkshire racism episode has “fractured our game and torn lives apart” and pledged his support in a bid to bring about a change at his childhood club.
The cricket club recently concluded that no employees would face any action over former player Azeem Rafiq’s claims of institutional racism and bullying, leading to major sponsors this week abandoning deals over the handling of the case.
Root, who is currently in Australia for the Ashes series, called for “change and actions” from Yorkshire.
“There is no debate about racism. It is simply intolerable,” Root said in a statement.
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“These events have fractured our game and torn lives apart. We must now recover and come back together as fans, players, media, and those who work within cricket. We have an opportunity to make the sport I love better for everyone,” he added.
The county has been widely criticised for its handling of the issue and, besides sponsors, it has also lost the right to host England international matches at its Headingley home.
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As a senior Yorkshire player, who was also a former teammate of Rafiq, Root said he felt “compelled to address the current situation that has consumed the sport and YCCC”.
“In my capacity as England captain and as a senior player at Yorkshire, I feel compelled to address the current situation that has consumed the sport and YCCC.
“I just want the sport to be a place where everyone is enjoying it for the beautiful game it is and feels equal and safe. It hurts knowing this has happened at YCCC so close to home. It’s my club that I care passionately about it. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting.” The England skipper added, “I want to see change and actions that will see YCCC rise from this with a culture that harnesses a diverse environment with trust across all communities that support cricket in the county.
Root also vowed to support new Yorkshire chairman Lord Patel.
“We need to educate, unify and reset. I will reach out to YCCC new Chair, Lord Patel, to offer support however I’m able.
“We have to find a way to move forward and make sure this never happens again. In my opinion, this is a societal issue and needs addressing further afield than just cricket. That being said, we, as a sport, all have to do more,” Root said.
Rafiq, a former England under-19 captain, said in interviews last year that as a Muslim he was made to feel like an “outsider” during his time at Yorkshire from 2008-18 and that he was close to taking his own life.
Rafiq made 43 allegations relating to his time at Yorkshire, of which seven were upheld by an independent panel, which added there was “no question” he was subjected to racial harassment and bullying.