Michael Vaughan apologises to Azeem Rafiq for ‘hurt’ during racism controversy

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, has told Azeem Rafiq that he is “sorry for the hurt he has gone through”, after speaking publicly for the first time since being implicated in the Yorkshire racism scandal.
Vaughan has been stood down from BBC Test Match Special’s commentary team for the forthcoming Ashes, in the wake of Rafiq’s claim that he had once told a group of four Asian players at Yorkshire “there are too many of you lot, we need to do something about it”.

However, speaking to BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker, Vaughan insisted once again that he had no recollection of using such words, adding that he had been “proud as punch” to take the field at Trent Bridge in 2009 alongside the homegrown trio of Rafiq, Adil Rashid and Ajmal Shahzad, as well as Pakistan’s overseas player, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.

“I don’t [remember saying that],” Vaughan said. “My recollection from that day, as I’ve said, I was a Yorkshire player for 18 years, I was the first player to sign for that club that was not born in the county, so for 18 years we had gone from me being the first to sign for the club, Sachin Tendulkar being the first from overseas, to players being able to sign from other clubs.

“It was my last few games and I remember it clearly that I was proud as punch that we had four Asian players representing Yorkshire Cricket Club.”

Speaking at the DCMS hearings in Westminster last week, Rafiq had told the parliamentary select committee that it was “important not to make it all about Michael”, adding that he might not have remembered making derogatory comments “because it’s not important to him”.

Vaughan admitted that that comment “hurts”, and reiterated his claim that he had never used racist language. However, he acknowledged that, in the course of his 18-year professional career, including ten with England, “I’d be lying if I would sit here now and say that I never heard words or conversations that I would certainly pick out now.”

‘That [comment] hurts,” Vaughan added, “because I’ve always felt that every single team that I have been involved in, the biggest praise I ever got as England captain for six years was that I was the kind of person that really galvanized the group, got the team working together as one. I wanted everyone in the dressing room to feel included.

“I’m sorry for the hurt that [Rafiq] has gone through,” Vaughan added. “Yorkshire Cricket Club, I believe, is me. It has been my life whether I have been a player or not, I believe that once you have played for Yorkshire you are always a Yorkshire player and I am sorry for all the hurt that he has gone through.

“Time can never be a healer but hopefully time can be a way of Yorkshire Cricket Club never going through this situation again, and not putting themselves in a position of denial that they treated the players so badly.”

In the course of the interview, Vaughan was read out a number of his tweets, including a complaint that ‘Not many English people live in London… I need to learn a new language’, and a reply to the actor and comedian, Adil Ray, suggesting that Moeen Ali should ask young Muslims if they are terrorists to help make society a safer place.

“I look back at my 12 years in social media, I regret many tweets,” Vaughan said. “I apologise deeply to anyone I offended with those tweets.

“We all make mistakes and, in my life, I’ve made quite a few mistakes on Twitter. I apologise for that, but I can’t suddenly get rid of it. That’s happened, but I think sometimes through social media, people can presume who you are and interpret who you are because of a tweet or two. I know who I am, and I hope the people around me, who were close to me, know exactly who I am.”

Asked if he felt he could rehabilitate his career in light of the controversy, Vaughan conceded: “It’ll take time. I’ve no doubt about that. But I’m sure over time people will see that the true me.

“I won’t be doing the Ashes,” he added, in the wake of the BBC’s decision to withdraw him for editorial reasons, although he is at this stage still expected to take part in the Australian host broadcast for Fox Cricket. “I understand the story is all about Azeem Rafiq and racism in cricket. I just hope in time I will have that chance to come back. The one thing I have loved more than anything since retiring is talking cricket, and I hope I can do that again.”

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