Former allrounder unnerved after receiving specific threats on social media
Yorkshire have promised to ban for life anyone found to have made threats against Azeem Rafiq or his family and legal team.
The club made the commitment after ESPNcricinfo showed them a collection of messages sent to Chadwick Lawrence, the legal firm used by Rafiq.
Among those messages was a demand for Rafiq to “stop trashing Yorkshire CCC” or see the post office run by his family members “trashed”. Rafiq described the messages as “vile” and “terrifying”.
Such messages – and a host of others sent over social media – have been reported to both South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire police.
The messages followed Rafiq’s claims that he had faced racial abuse and discrimination during his time at Yorkshire. They would appear to have intensified after he decided to take legal action against the club.
Yorkshire had already launched an enquiry into Rafiq’s claims. But while they had originally hoped to report before Christmas, the timeframe has slipped considerably due to the large number of witnesses involved. The club are now avoiding putting a specific timeframe on a conclusion and insist their priority is ensuring the investigation is thorough.
“I have received social media abuse since I spoke out about my experiences at Yorkshire,” Rafiq told ESPNcricinfo. “That’s been awful, but much more worrying have been threats to my family and the implicitly threatening vile messages that my team has received. It’s terrifying.
“On the advice of my lawyers, I have reported the matter to the police. No one should feel scared to open up about as serious a matter as racism or be bullied once they have done so. This is another reason why Yorkshire’s investigators must complete their inquiry into racism at the club as quickly as possible.
“I urge others who have suffered racism to not be cowed by such nasty characters. Revealing those experiences is the only way to make sure there is progress in sport and society.”
While the majority of messages are simply abusive, one or two are specific and chilling. One, in particular, refers to the specific address of the post office run by members of Azeem’s family and then asks: “Do you want it trashed or do you want to stop trashing Yorkshire CCC. It is your choice.”
The club was quick to condemn such harassment.
“We are appalled to learn of the threats made against Azeem Rafiq, his family and his legal team and condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” the club said in a statement released to ESPNcricinfo. “We understand that this is now a police matter and when the perpetrators are found we can confirm they will receive a lifetime ban from any premises owned or operated by Yorkshire County Cricket club or any of its affiliates.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo