Azeem Rafiq is not having a good week. In addition to having to issue a grovelling apology for antisemitic messages, this morning it was reported in the Yorkshire Post that a mobile number belonging to him allegedly sent creepy sexual messages to a teenage girl, declaring a desire to ‘grab you push u up against wall and kiss you.’
In short, the former Yorkshire and England star has bizarrely managed to find himself at the centre a racism storm, an antisemitism storm and a sex storm all at once – as a victim in the first case and a perpetrator in the second.
So far, Mr Rafiq hasn’t commented on the young woman’s allegations and his spokesman told the paper it was being investigated. He did, however, more fully address the antisemitism furore with me in a second conversation over video link yesterday, as further storm clouds brewed unnoticed overhead.
When we spoke on the phone on the day that his antisemitic messages had been revealed by the Times, he offered his unreserved apology to the Jewish community (whom he had offended by making jokes at the age of 19 about a friend having the ‘Jewish’ characteristics of money-grubbing stinginess).
He had seemed very strung out and distressed, and confided that he had been having trouble sleeping. He didn’t want to pose for a photograph for the Jewish Chronicle, he said, to accompany the interview. He was in too much of a state.
The next day, however, we spoke on video link and I was able to ask some more probing questions about what exactly had happened, how it could have happened, and what it meant for the legitimacy of his campaign to rid cricket of racism. The conversation was fascinating; it amounted to the fullest and frankest explanation that Mr Rafiq has given so far.
My first question was simple: are you antisemitic? He replied that he wasn’t any more, but accepted that he did harbour antisemitic attitudes back then, when he was 19.