Yorkshire rugby legend Jason Robinson: Racism suffered by Azeem Rafiq found in every sport
Mr Rafiq’s testimony to MPs this week has opened up a crisis in his sport, with the Government demanding action from the game’s leaders to tackle the problem of discriminatory behaviour.
Mr Robinson, who is from Leeds and enjoyed huge success in both rugby codes including winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, said he experienced racist abuse from coaches and spectators during his career and that racism has become a “normal occurrence” in 21st century Britain.
“Cricket is not unique, it’s the one that’s been caught,” he said.
“If everybody (who had been racially abused) was to step forward it would be literally everyone. The cricket scandal is nothing new. It goes on not just in cricket, it goes on in daily life, in offices up and down the country around the world. It is a normal occurrence.”
He was asked if he had ever faced abuse from people within his sport. “I wouldn’t repeat what some people have said and some will say they have said it in the heat of the moment,” he said.
“Whether it’s crowds, coaches, some of the things are not as blatant. Some of the things can just be ‘well you’re all right, you’ as if to say, you know, ‘for a black man, you’re all right’.
“I knew, being a black sportsman, it was always going to be harder for me because it wasn’t just about performance. It wasn’t just about turning up and doing what I need to do on the pitch. I knew a lot of my pressures came through the abuse that I was going to face because I was black.
“Nobody ever came to me and said, ‘Look, what we’ve heard today shouldn’t have gone on and we’re going to do something about it’. Nothing was ever done. We had to just suck it up, get on with it. And as a result, you know, I’m affected by some of that stuff.
“I’ve been on a field where there has been four or five thousand people shouting the most horrendous racist abuse. How many people in the crowd were telling them to shut up and to not make those remarks? People have been brought up in it and now those ways are normal, it’s banter, it’s OK. But it’s not OK for those on the receiving end.”
Mr Robinson is a passionate supporter of the Think Equal charity, a global initiative which seeks a system change in education to introduce social and emotional learning for children aged three to six onto national curricula around the world.
The aim is to eliminate discrimination, disrespect and violence in the next generation through early intervention.
He said: “We’re always trying to put fires out instead of trying to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. The Government will spend six over £6bbn per year on obesity. Why wait until children and adults have put on the weight to then pay for it to come off? You know, why don’t we put more into prevention?”