“I did use unacceptable – at times, racist language”, Gary Ballance apologises to Azeem Rafiq

Yorkshire cricketer Gary Ballance has apologised to Azeem Rafiq for use of racist language against his former teammate.

“I have wanted to meet Azeem in person for quite some time, but I had to make sure I was in a good place when I did so,” Ballance said. “Azeem has been through similar mental health challenges and understands why this has taken me a little time.”

“I apologise unreservedly to Azeem for the words I used when we played together. I did use unacceptable – at times, racist – language. If I had realised how much this hurt Azeem, I would have stopped immediately. That’s why I wanted to meet him this week and be clear in person that I intended no malice. That’s not an excuse, I realise that the language I used was wrong.”

Ballance, who has featured in 23 Tests and 16 One-Day Internationals for England between 2013 and 2017, had announced in May that he was taking a break from cricket for “personal reasons”.

“I have accepted, from the outset, the words I used were wrong and I hope this statement brings Azeem some comfort. There is no place in our sport for this behaviour and I am determined to play my part in ridding the game from racism and make it more inclusive. To do this we all need to be honest and learn from our past mistakes,” the 32-year-old said.

Responding to Ballance, Rafiq said, “Gary has been brave to admit the truth and I understand why the mental strain has made it difficult for him to make this apology any sooner. Gary must be applauded for his honesty and unreserved apology and must now be allowed to get on with his life.”

He further added, “I would like to thank Gary. He has done cricket and the fight against racism a great service with these words. I would also like to thank those who have been in contact with me privately to apologise for what they witnessed.”

Ballance was among the seven individuals charged by the ECB, along with the Yorkshire Cricket Club itself, in June this year for bringing the game into disrepute following Rafiq’s initial allegations of racism and harassment levelled at the club.

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