Gary Ballance admitted that he used a racial slur against his “close friend” Azeem Rafiq. He said he did call him P**i and that in his younger days, he didn’t know the significance of such words. He said despite using the slur, he consider Azeem Rafiq as his closest friend in cricket and also revealed that he supported Azeem Rafiq through thick and thin, especially when Azeem lost his infant son and when the Yorkshire club let Rafiq go.
The Yorkshire cricket club is caught in a storm ever since Rafiq brought up the allegations of racial abuse during his time at the club. Two of their sponsors in Emerald and Yorkshire Tea have broken the partnership and it looks like the situation will only get worse with more evidence from Azeem Rafiq on the way.
It has been reported that I used a racial slur and, as I told the independent enquiry, I accept that I did so and I regret doing so. To be clear - I deeply regret some of the language I used in my younger years. On the pitch we supported each other greatly. We both captained Yorkshire at various times and we backed each other when we filled these roles. When he was first released by Yorkshire I was there for him during that tough time and I was delighted when he earned a new contract and a second spell with the club. He was very pleased for me when I was selected for England and I was delighted to receive his supportive messages during my time with England. Because we were such good friends and spent a lot of time together drinking and on nights out we both said things privately to each other which were not acceptable. I do not wish to discredit Rafa by repeating the words and statements that he made about me and others but I have to be clear that this was a situation where best friends said offensive things to each other which, outside of that context, would be considered wholly inappropriate. I regret that these exchanges took place but at no time did I believe or understand that it had caused Rafa distress. If I had believed that then I would have stopped immediately. He was my best mate in cricket and I cared deeply for him. To my knowledge, it has never been alleged that I reduced Rafa to tears.
Gary Ballance, Batter, Yorkshire