Yorkshire cricketer Gary Ballance apologises to Azeem Rafiq for using racist language
Yorkshire cricketer Gary Ballance has apologised to former teammate Azeem Rafiq for using racist language towards him when they both played for the club.
The two met in person earlier in the week in a meeting organised by the Professional Cricketers' Association.
Ballance said: "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."
Yorkshire has been embroiled in a racism scandal since Rafiq first made allegations in 2020 that he was targeted by his Yorkshire colleagues.
Last year, he told a committee of MPs he suffered "constant" slurs leaving him feeling "humiliated".
In November Ballance admitted using racial slurs towards Rafiq during their time at Headingley, but claimed that the pair often made offensive comments to each other in jest.
Rafiq praised Ballance's "courage" in apologising for his behaviour and called for him to be allowed to continue his career.
He said: "Gary got things wrong, so did many people. The main issue is cricket’s institutional racism.
"Gary’s courage means he is now part of the solution. I hope he can be allowed to get on with his cricket.
"I would like to thank Gary. He has done cricket and the fight against racism a great service with these words."