Mohammed Rafiq is seen visibly straining with a machine on a trolley made of silver, with tubes flowing freely to his nostrils. He stands outside Headingley with a sign.
The sign reads ‘Racism is not banter’, but it’s the sign on the weary face of the 63-year-old that speaks louder.
This is a story about the pain, trauma, and defiance of his son Azeem, who came out as he was 15 months ago, with accusations of racism and bullying made by Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
The case has dominated the news agenda following Cricinfo’s revelation this week that Yorkshire’s report into racism at the club concluded that the term ‘P***’ was used in ‘banter’, with Sportsmail revealing on Wednesday that Gary Ballance had directed it at Rafiq.
Michael Vaughan wrote in his Daily Telegraph that he had also been implicated.
Mohammed is joined in the procession by Amna and Rahila, both 26, and 24 year olds, as well as mother Rehana, 53. A host of community members are also present, along with extended family and friends, to offer support to Azeem (former England Under 19 captain).
The frustration seeps out of the speeches to the crowd. This feeling is also apparent among those who witnessed the club yards behind them failing to handle such sensitive cases.
Mohammed Rafiq, Azeem’s father (pictured), joined the Headingley crowd.
Rafiq said he was exposed to racism while working at Yorkshire County Cricket Club
Many people came together outside of Yorkshire’s homeland to express their opinion
Before slipping in the crowd, Dr Abdul Sheikh (43), gave an impassioned talk on the significance of the case.
‘Azeem Rafiq in my view is a hero,’ he says. ‘A brave warrior who faced severe adversity. He’s received threats from the far right, criticism from the community for making a stand but I’m immensely proud of him.
‘If I’m not here, then what’s the point? It’d all be in vain for what Azeem has fought for, so it’s to show solidarity and support to him and his family.
‘I fought racism all my life: the P-word, etc. In order to prove that racism was not casual banter, it required me to address people. It has major effects on people’s life in the world of work. It can already be hard for ethnic minorities in this country, never mind if they face xenophobia and racism.’
Taj Butt is the Great Horton Church’s secretary. He was also a former employee of Yorkshire Cricket Foundation. ‘It just shows how strong the feeling in the community is that we are prepared to turn out and voice our anger at the club,’ he said. ‘It’s been 15 months since Azeem made the complaint and the club have been looking to sweep it under the carpet.
‘You usually go to Headingley to watch county or international cricket, which brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. But coming here having to demonstrate an injustice doesn’t seem right.’
Yunus Lunat (54), also participated in the protest. ‘I practise employment law,’ he said. ‘I get these sorts of cases on my desk and most people don’t have the resources or strength to fight, particularly institutions of this nature. This is just the tip of the iceberg in workplaces.’
Yorkshire County Cricket Club was widely criticized for its investigation