New Yorkshire cricket coach apologises for Azeem Rafiq racism comments

New Yorkshire coach Ryan Sidebottom and former player Azeem Rafiq (Pictures: Sky Sports/Getty)

New Yorkshire coach and former England bowler Ryan Sidebottom has apologised for using ‘a poor choice of words’ in response to the racism scandal at the club.

Ex-Yorkshire and England star Sidebottom joined Yorkshire’s coaching staff on an interim basis last week to work under new director of cricket Darren Gough.

There has been widespread changes at Headingley following Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations, which he first raised in August 2020 and discussed before a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee in November.

The revelations led to the resignations of chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur, while 16 members of staff – including first-team coach Andrew Gale – were sacked.

Sidebottom addressed the scandal in an interview with Sky Sports on Monday but attracted criticism after saying ‘let’s try and forget about it’.

‘It’s been tough viewing, tough listening, seeing social media. It’s been very difficult for lots of reasons for a lot of people,’ he said.

‘Let’s try and forget about it. There’s no room for racism in any walk of life and hopefully now we can move forward, sort things out, do the right thing and get Yorkshire back firing on all cylinders.

Rafiq was the victim of racial abuse during his spell at Yorkshire (Picture: AFP)

‘But it’s been a tough couple of months hasn’t it for Yorkshire and everyone at the club.’

Responding to Sidebottom’s comments, Rafiq said on social media: ‘Let’s definitely not just “forget it”. Learn from it and make things better. Wish it was that easy just to forget it and pretend nothing happened.’

Sidebottom has since offered an apology, saying: ‘I’m truly sorry for any offence caused earlier by my words.

‘We should never forget, we must learn. I never meant to say forget. My choice of words were wrong, and an honest mistake. Here’s what I meant.

‘I disagree wholeheartedly with discrimination and fully support all investigations and actions surrounding any racial abuse at Yorkshire CCC.

Rafiq in action for Yorkshire in 2017 (Picture: Getty)

‘In my interview with Sky Sports News I used the word “forget”. This is not what I meant.

‘I didn’t mean that the situation should be forgotten about, on the contrary, it must never be forgotten. It was a poor choice of words.

‘It is crucial that the club, and sport as a whole, learns and adapts to create a truly inclusive environment for all, at all levels.

‘I apologise for any offence caused. I am now focused on supporting the playing group at Yorkshire CCC on the pitch.’

In November, the ECB suspended Yorkshire from hosting England matches until the club has ‘clearly demonstrated that it can meet the standards expected’.

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