Two of the other players there at the time, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Adil Rashid, supported Rafiq’s claim.
Vaughan has consistently denied commenting, but said he was sorry and “deeply hurt” by what Rafiq went through during his time at the club.
He also apologized for a series of racist tweets and comments on the air. In 2017, Vaughan tweeted that English cricketer Moeen Ali should ask other Muslims if they were terrorists. In 2018, he said of Indian assailant Cheteshwar Pujara, commenting: “Steve, as they call him in Yorkshire, because they can not pronounce his first name.”
These incidents took place well before Rafiq publicly spoke of his time in Yorkshire, but it was only when he forced a bill in English cricket that Vaughan was held to account. The BBC announced that Vaughan would no longer play a role in his Ashes coverage, showing how seriously they took the charges.
Another broadcaster, BT, had already agreed to syndicate Fox’s comment, but in light of the accusations against Vaughan, they extraordinarily decided to splice an extra commentator every time Vaughan was on the air. In the end, BT decided it was easier to assemble its own commentary team, split between the UK and Australia, but obviously a lot of thought and expense was invested in trying to avoid broadcasting Vaughan to the audience.
The end result is that Vaughan cannot be heard in the UK, but is one of the most prominent voices commenting on the series here in Australia. That in itself shows how far back the conversation is in Australia compared to the UK, but the almost total lack of serious debate and discussion about the decision within the cricket community and the media is further proof.
Fox Sports’ CEO declined to comment when asked Aging and Sydney Morning Herald on the decision to continue the collaboration with Vaughan. Shane Warne, another Fox commentator, sympathized with Vaughan, saying, “I think he’s a great commentator, a great addition to our Fox Cricket team, and we’re looking forward to him coming out.”
The only conclusion to be drawn from this situation is that serious allegations of racism are no obstacle to success and financial reward in Australian sports media. Of course, this is not entirely surprising given how often the Australian media has been the last refuge for controversial right-wing extremists blacklisted from their home countries (think Katie Hopkins). But seeing the sharp real-time difference between the reaction in the UK and Australia really underscores how much more work needs to be done here.
That work is done, of course, not by the high-profile, wealthy white athletes and media figures like Warne, who have the least to lose by saying no, but by those who have first-hand experience of what it means to be part of a sports like cricket when you come from an underrepresented background.
One of the few Australian cricket figures to publicly support Rafiq was Jason Gillespie, the first, and only before Boland, native Test player for Australia. Gillespie is a former Yorkshire coach and he described Rafiq’s testimony as “heartbreaking”.
A few weeks ago, Usman Khawaja, the first Muslim to play test cricket for Australia, described his own experiences of racism in Australian cricket in an interview with ABC. Much of what he said was consistent with the stories told by Azeem Rafiq, Nasser Hussein and other non-white grasshoppers in Britain.
“I was very different and it has some respect for you and I saw it from time to time,” Khawaja said. systemic racism, and even part of it had to make a kind of bias. “
This is not the first time Khawaja has spoken of what he describes as systemic racism in Australian cricket. But contrary to what has unfolded in the UK, there have been no inquiries, inquiries, reports, parliamentary hearings or prime ministerial statements.
Just as much as we should be celebrating Boland’s performance right now, we should not pretend that his success in itself will magically fix the structures within cricket that have kept others like him and Khawaja locked out for so long.
Australia needs its own math, but as long as we are willing to be Michael Vaughan’s safety net, that day will never come.