Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq has said he was “triggered” by comments about Asian athletes made by the boxer Amir Khan this week.
The former welterweight champion said on Monday that Asian athletes use racism as an excuse when they do not perform well and that eating curry was “not the right diet to be a champion”.
Rafiq, who was found to have been a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” at Yorkshire Country Cricket Club, told Sky News: “Khan’s comments reinforce lazy stereotypes about Asian athletes when there’s clear data out there to disprove that.”
The cricketer’s allegations of institutional racism at Yorkshire led to government intervention, several resignations on the county’s board and a ban on the club hosting Tests.
“It is particularly sad because it comes from someone who inspired entire communities to take up sport,” Rafiq, 31, said.
“And to be honest, it triggered me. I suffer daily, and I find life incredibly difficult as someone who has endured abuse. And, according to Amir Khan, I’m just making an excuse.”
Khan, 35, won silver at the age of 17 in the 2004 Olympics and held welterweight titles between 2009 and 2012.
He has since led a celebrity lifestyle, appearing on television series I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and At Home With The Khans.
At a news conference to mark his retirement on Monday, Khan said in comments reported in The Guardian: “People used to say: ‘We are Muslim, we are Asian, we can’t make it in boxing. We’re not going to be picked.’ It’s an excuse that all Asians use – that we’re never going to be picked.”
He continued: “Look at football, for example. There are no Asian footballers but guess what they all say? ‘We won’t get picked because we’re Asian.’ I think that’s a f***ing load of bull****, really. It’s a load of b*******. Asians, when we can’t to a certain extent, give up. We don’t have it in us.
“Look, us Asians are not really meant to be fighters. We’re not supposed to be good sportsmen and women. Our diet is appalling. It’s curries. It’s not the right diet to be a champion. If you put us against a lot of English fighters their diet is a lot better. They’re stronger than us.”
Equality groups described Khan’s comments as “baffling”.
“The sport sector has been working to become more anti-racist, progress is occurring but there is still a long way to go to undo systemic racism,” said Arun Kang, chief executive of Sporting Equals.
“It is baffling and extremely frustrating as Amir has now further reinforced stereotypes the British South Asian community has long fought to diminish.
“Such misinformed and misguided comments have caused greater harm to the community.”
In May, Crawley FC terminated the contract of manager John Yems after he was accused of repeatedly using offensive racist language and segregating changing rooms along race lines in a move described as “modern-day apartheid”.
Khan declined to comment.
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