Colin Graves’s remarks on the Yorkshire CCC racism crisis highlight unbridgeable divide - Chris Waters comment
Graves’s remarks, made in an interview with Sky Sports News on Monday, sparked a strong response from the man at the centre of that story, Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire player, who took to Twitter wearing a T-shirt that said: “Racism is not banter”.
Ditto from the Yorkshire CCC of today, which said that “as a board, we maintain that we needed to accept and take responsibility for the cultural issues which allowed racist and discriminatory behaviour to go unchallenged”.
Also from Lord Kamlesh Patel, the previous chairman, who countered that part of his job – which included sacking 14 staff members for signing a letter that questioned/criticised Rafiq in the scandal’s most controversial act – was “to address the institutional racism and discrimination that had taken place”.
Also from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which spoke of “upheld” issues including by its own Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC), and finally by the charity Sporting Equals, which said that “to excuse racism as banter, as Mr Graves has done, is part of the problem”.
Helping Yorkshire down the road to becoming more diverse, more inclusive and more welcoming was the overriding message – and that Graves, and those like him, belong to the past.
It is why the two positions – essentially, that there was not a problem at Yorkshire, or rather that the problem was blown out of all proportion, and that it was a toxic organisation whose staff were a “cancer” that had to be removed, as one ‘former’ journalist put it in front of the DCMS select committee last year – are in such direct and, ultimately, incompatible opposition.
For Rafiq, the current Yorkshire board, Lord Patel, the ECB, Sporting Equals and so on, guilt has already been determined, set in stone.
For Graves, from the moment that the lie became a truth, as it were, through unsatisfactory/incomplete investigations, the truth became a lie, and one is having to work backwards from that point as opposed to trying to move forwards from the opposite premise. As with the initial Yorkshire probe, which did not dismiss racism as banter, in fact, as was opportunistically reported at the time, but forcibly condemned any racist terminology, Graves did not appear to excuse it either.
Asked if he had witnessed racism in his time at the club, which overlapped much of Rafiq’s time there, he said first: “None whatsoever, from anybody at any level. Nothing.”
“Institutional racism, I believe, is the wrong word,” he continued. “I think there’s been odd occasions when words have been said which people may regret afterwards. I don’t think it was done on a racist, savage basis.
“I think there was a lot of – and I know people don’t like the word ‘banter’ – but I think there could have been a lot of banter in there about it, and I know people don’t like that, but when you play cricket, and you’re part of cricket teams, and you’re in cricket dressing rooms, that’s what’s happened in the past.
“But the world has changed, society has changed. It’s not acceptable, I understand that. I accept it, full stop. But I don’t believe it’s institutional racism in Yorkshire.
"If people can prove it, fine, but I don’t think it’s institutionally racist as an organisation.
"I just don’t see it.”
Graves said that “nothing was brought up” when he was chairman, and that he ran the club on “an open-door basis”. “Players could come and see me if they had issues, and they did so on a regular basis,” he added.
Graves spoke in defence of the sacked staff, specifically Martyn Moxon, the former director of cricket, who did not sign the infamous staff letter but was rather the subject of an attempt by staff within it to defend him.
“People like Martyn Moxon have been castigated, lost their jobs, lost their careers as part of these allegations,” said Graves.
“Martyn Moxon hasn’t got a racist bone in his body. Martyn Moxon, people forget, was the person who brought Azeem Rafiq back to the club.
"He gave him a new contract. He gave him a second chance.
"If Martyn had been racist, why did he do that?”
Some will applaud Graves’s comments, others will be angered by them, and vice-versa the remarks of his antagonists.
Never the twain shall meet.