‘A group of white people dictate and get exactly what they wish’ – Michael Vaughan on racism in English cricket
In an interview with the Telegraph, Michael Vaughan has discussed in depth how he has changed after becoming embroiled in the racism in English cricket scandal in late 2021.
Vaughan was named in a report into racism at Yorkshire CCC, sparked by claims made by Azeem Rafiq, as having said, “There’s too many of you lot, we need to do something about it,” to a group of players of Asian descent before a Yorkshire game in 2009. He also came under fire for a series of historical tweets he had posted between 2010 and 2018. Vaughan continues to deny the former allegation, which has been corroborated by Test players Adil Rashid and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, but has expressed his regret for the latter.
Vaughan was stood down from both BT Sport’s and Test Match Special’s coverage of the recently concluded men’s Ashes series, but he explained how he feels the saga was “the best thing that’s ever happened” to him because of what he has learned in its aftermath.
He explained how he was encouraged by Simon Green, the head of BT Sport, to partake in a diversity and inclusion course, originally railing against the suggestion.
“You can imagine. ‘P— off, Simon; I don’t need to be educated, I know exactly who I am,” he said. “I’m a good guy.’ But Simon spoke so openly, honestly and brutally to me, and the more we talked, it was like, ‘You know what? I think you’re right. I’m in this embedded system that we need to change. What do I need to do here?’”
Vaughan expanded on what he had learned on the course.
“This has been an education for me,” he said, “I wouldn’t say I was so stubborn to think that change in society wasn’t happening, and that I wasn’t aware and understanding of it. I thought I was actually very modern and forward thinking in what we’re all trying to achieve in society. But clearly there was a lot I didn’t know. I can say that from doing this course, I know that I’m a miles better person now than I was.
“[Cricket has] been very much a game that’s geared towards a certain section of society. A group of white people that dictate and they get exactly what they wish.
“‘You’re going to have to change to fit into the system’ – that’s what cricket’s been saying for so long – and maybe society. The Asian community, the black community, women – we’ve been saying to them, if you really want to be in our system, you’ve got to squeeze through. And you’re not all going to fit in.
“What I learnt very quickly was that white people do have privilege – but I was very defensive and angry about anyone saying that. ‘Don’t be stupid. Everything I’ve got came because I worked hard. I’ve not been given anything. How dare you say anything?’
“But the more I did the course, the more I learnt. I’ve never got into a lift and stood next to a lady with a handbag and she puts the handbag on the other shoulder because of the colour of my skin. I’ve never arrived at a conference and had someone say ‘Are you here to deliver the food?’ because of the colour of my skin. These are the things I’ve learnt.”
Vaughan acknowledged that there would be those who would see his attendance at the course as merely an act to allow him to work freely again. “Of course, people were saying: ‘Oh, you’re only doing it because you were accused of being a racist.’ Absolutely. I wouldn’t have done it had I not been in that situation. I need to make that very, very clear.
“I’d love to be working again this summer, that’s all I’ll say. People will say Vaughany’s only doing this because he wants his job back. But that’s certainly not the case.”
On his historical tweets, Vaughan explained why they were wrong, in his view, while also saying that some of those close to him had suggested the things he had tweeted weren’t problematic.
“I look back at two or three of them, and all my mates said: ‘Come on, Vaughany, it was 2010 – you can’t let that get to you. You didn’t say anything that everyone else wasn’t thinking. That tweet about [directory enquiries] – does anybody speak English? Everyone was thinking that.’ Yeah, but that’s why it’s wrong. If everyone’s thinking that, maybe we all need to change.”
He also opened up on the impact of the increased media scrutiny on his personal life. “You know it’s serious when you have cameras outside your house for a week,” Vaughan said. “I’ll be honest; it was the worst time of my life for me and my family – it was awful. But nothing quite like, I guess, what had gone on at Yorkshire Cricket Club for certain individuals over the years.
“The abuse I got in November, the worry for me is that I’ll get more abuse over this. But I’m not trying to lecture people or tell them what to do. All I’m saying is just take a look in the mirror and say, am I the same as Vaughany? And if you are, just educate yourself – just a little bit…”