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Cricket’s bruise week took another hit on Thursday night when former England batsman Alex Hales admitted painting his face black for a New Years party in 2009.

Hales, who this week denied naming his black dog Kevin after a racial insult allegedly used in Yorkshire by Gary Ballance, was forced to explain why he attended the party with a black face.

Hales told The Sun: “In 2009, I attended a disguised musical tribute party on New Years Eve. I dressed as a tribute to my musical hero, Tupac Shakur, someone I have admired ever since. childhood and, at the time, I didn’t realize how offensive it was. I echo my statement earlier this week and stress how deeply I deplore racism and discrimination in all its forms.

It was the latest development on a day when Yorkshire whistleblower Azeem Rafiq had to apologize for sending anti-Semitic messages to another cricketer over ten years ago, while the government was warning against further measures if sport did not bring order to its house.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston sent the threat after he found Rafiq’s testimony to MPs “heartbreaking” and “alarming” on Tuesday. Speaking to the same digital, culture, media and sport select committee Rafiq had earlier in the week, he revealed he had met with the chief executive of the England and Country Cricket Council of Wales, Tom Harrison, and had been “assured that he would do whatever it took.” takes to correct wrongs ”.

But Huddleston also warned the sport and said if it didn’t start making demonstrable changes in weeks and months, the government was ready to step in. “Secretary of State Nadine Dorries has been very clear to me that if we don’t see enough action taken, we as a government will step in in whatever ways are necessary,” said Huddleston, before suggesting that The “nuclear option” would be to establish an independent regulator and examine the financial flows of public money into sport.

Huddleston reminded cricket that the fan-led review in football, which is expected to recommend an independent regulator in its report this month, has taken place due to the sport’s failure to pull itself together. “With cricket, I would say that time is running out, we could go down that route as well. “

However, he said the government needed to be very careful about reducing investment, as much of Sport England’s funding for cricket was supporting programs promoting diversity. “What we all want is for cricket to get their house in order, get their act together and fix this problem,” he said.

Huddleston also agreed with MPs that Yorkshire’s treatment of Rafiq demonstrated that they were institutionally racist. “I think so, as long as racist language was normalized and seen as acceptable and some people didn’t seem to realize or recognize that what they were doing and saying was racist, and I think that’s probably the definition of institutional racism, “he said.

Alex Hales pictured in blackface as England cricket strikes another blow |  Locust
Nigel Huddleston watches a game at Edgbaston in 2020. The Sports Minister has said he believes the ECB could clean up the cricket house. Photograph: David Davies / AP

But, as Huddleston made clear, it wasn’t just Yorkshire where there was a problem. As early as 2014, academic Thomas Fletcher had produced two reports, first for the ECB and then for Yorkshire a year later, which had investigated how British Asians were treated in the game. Yet both had sat on it. .

“The speed with which Yorkshire appears to have responded to Azeem Rafiq’s concerns appears to have been extraordinarily slow, and so this raises questions about how seriously the sport takes the issues that have been raised,” said Huddleston. “The Fletcher report is from 2014. The case of Azeem Rafiq officially started in 2017. So we saw that this has been clearly tossed in the grass for years. It is not appropriate. So I think we need some time for the ECB and Lord Patel [Yorkshire’s new chairman], who is leading his review, to think about what steps could be taken, but I think we are all impatient here, including myself.

Harrison, meanwhile, is expected to come under pressure from some quarters when the 41 ECB members, including the 18 first-class counties, national counties and the MCC, meet on Friday afternoon. However, Huddleston appeared to suggest that the sport’s governing body should have time when asked if he believes its leaders have the talent and skills to overthrow cricket.

Alex Hales pictured in blackface as England cricket strikes another blow |  Locust
Jack Brooks was reprimanded by Somerset for using racist language in 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire. Photograph: Harry Trump / Getty Images

“I would love to believe they do,” Huddleston said.

“And we certainly hear positive noises. Tom is sincerely committed to understanding the issues and wanting to solve them. “

He added, “I’m not saying I have absolute confidence right now. I have heard positive rumors, but we will judge them by their actions and their actions. The ECB has fairly large and substantial resources. Cricket is not one of the poorest sports.

As the fallout from Rafiq’s testimony continues, Somerset has officially berated Jack Brooks for using racist language in the past. The crimper has been investigated for offensive tweets dating back to 2012, the year he left Northamptonshire for Yorkshire, as well as for his use of Steve’s name for his former White Rose teammate Cheteshwar Pujara.

Brooks’ habit of refusing to use Pujara’s first name against the Indian batter’s will was discussed by Rafiq during the select committee. A Somerset statement said: “The club have decided to scold Jack, remind him of his responsibilities and ask him to attend extensive training on equality, diversity and inclusiveness.

“The club had a long discussion with Jack about the nature and content of his comments. There is no doubt that these comments are unacceptable. Jack… is embarrassed and devastated that his comments offended people and he admitted that although they were made almost a decade ago when he was less mature, the content of the posts was wrong. Jack has been committed honestly and openly throughout the investigation and has apologized wholeheartedly for his past mistakes.

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