‘Anyone of this age group KNOWS that is racism, not banter’: Social media savages Gary Ballance’s ‘unacceptable’ statement admitting and trying to justify using racist language to Pakistan-born teammate
- Batsman admitted calling his former Yorkshire colleague and ‘best mate’ a ‘P**i’
- Ballance released a long and emotional statement on the matter on Wednesday
- But fans said the 31-year-old star blaming his ‘younger years’ was no excuse
Ex-England cricketer Gary Ballance was tonight slammed for a statement in which he admitted and tried to justify using racist language to Pakistan-born teammate Azeem Rafiq in his ‘younger years’.
The batsman, 31, admitted calling his former Yorkshire colleague and ‘best mate’ a ‘P**i’ in a long and emotional statement on Wednesday night, just hours after MailOnline revealed he was the player at the heart of a long-running race scandal.
However, social media users suggested claiming the comments were made in his ‘younger years’ was no excuse.
One tweeted: ‘Goes without saying but…Gary Ballance is 31. I don’t care about socio economic arguments / different places etc. Anyone of this age group KNOWS that is racism, not *banter*. Though really age is no excuse. That the club then excused it as such – @YorkshireCCC are a disgrace.’
Another wrote: ‘Ballance is 4 years younger than me. It wasn’t an acceptable word to use when I was growing up. No excuses.’
A third added: ”In my younger years’ won’t wash if it turns out that Gary Ballance was in his late 20’s. Yorkshire County Cricket Club are not fit for purpose. Maybe remove Headingley as a Test Match venue – punish them in language they’ll understand…’
Ex-England cricketer Gary Ballance (pictured) was tonight slammed for claiming racist language used against Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq was in his ‘younger years’
Ballance accepted he was responsible for some of the offensive and derogatory terms that Rafiq (pictured) revealed he was subjected to during his time at Headingley
Among the comments Ballance is alleged to have made are telling other people ‘don’t talk to him (Rafiq), he’s a P**i, asking ‘is that your uncle?’ when bearded Asian men were in view and saying in reference to corner shops: ‘Does your Dad own those?’.
Ballance used a statement tonight to try and offer some context of his ‘incredibly close relationship’ with Rafiq during their time together at the club, claiming both men ‘said things privately to each other which were not acceptable’ but made it clear he had remorse for his part of those exchanges.
He wrote: ‘It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so. To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years.
‘I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements that he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.
‘I regret that these exchanges took place but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress. If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately.
‘He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him. To my knowledge, it has never been alleged that I reduced Rafa to tears.’
However, Rafiq responded on Twitter tonight by saying: ‘Funny how things change from complete denial to I accepted everything over a 14 month period ??’
Yorkshire Cricket Club has today been urged to sack him amid the claims that he repeatedly abused Mr Rafiq.
A number of sponsors including Yorkshire Tea and Anchor butter walked away from the club, while others such as Emerald Publishing demanded answers.
But last year’s inquiry into Azeem Rafiq’s accusations of alleged institutional racism at Yorkshire cleared a player they declined to name after concluding that regular use of the term ‘P**i’ came during ‘banter’ between the pair.
After the story emerged last week, Yorkshire then reiterated that no disciplinary action would be taken by them in the wake of Rafiq’s allegations.
It is reported that the panel found Rafiq’s reference to the former team-mate who is understood to be Ballance, who is of Zimbabwean heritage, as ‘Zimbo from Zimbabwe’ as a ‘racist, derogatory term’.
The report said that if Rafiq were still at Yorkshire, he would have faced disciplinary action.
Gary Ballance statement in full
‘My family and I are deeply saddened and upset by the allegations recently levelled at me in the press and by the misleading and selective nature of the reporting in the last few days. Azeem was not just a teammate of mine but he was my closest friend and supporter in cricket.
‘Throughout this process I have cooperated with the independent investigation and I have been completely honest and transparent with the club and the investigators at all times. Information and allegations have been leaked and reported in the press which in my view give a misleading impression of the evidence which was heard in the investigation. I had not intended to make any public statement but, given the reports which have been published, and with journalists arriving at my house, I feel I have no choice but to provide a public response.
‘To be clear – I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years. The independent enquiry, having heard all of the evidence, accepted that the context of some of the language used was in a ‘friendly verbal attack’ between friends which was not intended to offend or hurt and that no malice was intended.
‘Given my incredibly close relationship with Rafa over the years I am saddened that it has come to this. Rafa and I started playing for Yorkshire at a similar time and we quickly developed a very close bond. He encouraged me to play club cricket for his club Barnsley CC, which I did, we went on many tours together, with both Yorkshire and the England Performance Programme, and we always supported each other on and off the pitch. We socialised a lot together away from the game and would also drink and enjoy ourselves together.
‘On the pitch we supported each other greatly. We both captained Yorkshire at various times and we backed each other when we filled these roles. Rafa has always been a huge supporter of mine and was always there for me in the highs and lows of my career with Yorkshire and England. When he was first released by Yorkshire I was there for him during that tough time and I was delighted when he earned a new contract and a second spell with the club. He was very pleased for me when I was selected for England and I was delighted to receive his supportive messages during my time with England. He was also always a big support to me at some difficult times in my career, and I have always been very grateful to him for that.
‘Because we were such good friends and spent a lot of time together drinking and on nights out we both said things privately to each other which were not acceptable. It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so. I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements that he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate.
‘I regret that these exchanges took place but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress. If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately. He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him. To my knowledge, it has never been alleged that I reduced Rafa to tears.
‘That does not mean that what passed between us was right or appropriate. It was not. Rafa said things to me that were not acceptable and I did the same with Rafa. I never said anything with any intended malice or to upset Rafa.
‘Rafa and I remained closest friends throughout the time we exchanged these inappropriate comments. One winter, I suggested that Rafa and his bowling coach travel to Zimbabwe to stay with my family, which they did. He lived in my family’s house in Zimbabwe and spent time with my parents and my brothers while he trained in Zimbabwe. He would later become very good friends with my brother and the two of them stayed together regularly when my brother was in the UK. Rafa was always very grateful for the support and love which my family gave him and he regularly expressed this to me. I was honoured to be invited to his wedding in Pakistan which I sadly could not attend.
‘I am aware of how hurtful the racial slur is and I regret that I used this word in immature exchanges in my younger years and I am sure Rafa feels the same about some of the things he said to me as well.
‘My intention, during this whole process, has been to be honest and cooperate with the independent investigation. In light of recent media reports it is only right, on behalf of me and my family, that I put my position in the public domain.
‘I will not be making any further statement on this matter.’
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