Khawaja wears black armband after boots message banned

Australia batter Usman Khawaja was not allowed to wear shoes branded with his “all lives are equal” humanitarian message, so he wore a black armband instead on day one of the series-opening Test against Pakistan.

The International Cricket Council intervened on Wednesday after Khawaja indicated he planned to wear shoes during the match that featured messages to highlight the loss of innocent lives in the Israel-Hamas war .

The ICC’s policies for international cricket prohibit displays of political or religious statements on team uniforms or equipment.

Khawaja said he would abide by the ruling to avoid individual or team sanctions, but would challenge the ICC’s stance.

“Freedom is a human right, and all rights are equal,” Khawaja said in a social media post. “I will never stop believing that.”

Usman Khawaja’s full statement

“I won’t say much, I don’t need to, but what I do want is for everyone who did get offended, somehow, to ask yourself these questions: Is freedom not for everyone? Are all lives not equal?

“To me, personally, it doesn’t matter what race, religion or culture you are. Let’s be honest about it, if me saying ‘all lives are equal’ has offended people to the point where they’re calling me up and telling me off, well isn’t that a bigger problem? These people obviously don’t believe in what I do, and it’s obviously not a handful of people who feel this way – you’d be shocked.

“What I’ve written on my shoes isn’t political. I’m not taking sides. Human life to me is equal. One Jewish life is equal to one Muslim life, is equal to one Hindu life, and so on. I’m just speaking up for those who don’t have a voice.

“This is close to my heart. When I see thousands of innocent children die without any repercussions or remorse, I imagine my two girls – what if this was them? No-one choose where they’re born – and then I see the world turn their backs on them, my heart can’t take it.

“I already feel my life wasn’t equal to others when I was growing up, but luckily for me I never lived in a world where that inequality was life or death.

“The ICC have told me I can’t wear my shoes on field as they believe it’s a political statement under their guidelines. I don’t believe it’s so, it’s a humanitarian appeal.

“I will respect their view and decision, but I will fight it and seek to gain approval. Freedom is a human right.”

Australia batted first in the five-day match, and Khawaja and fellow Australian opener David Warner strode to the pitch along with the Pakistan fielders.

Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan and is the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia, wore the black armband to show solidary with people suffering in Gaza.

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He said what he had written on his shoes wasn’t political and he was not aiming to be divisive.

He scored 41 runs in a 126-run opening partnership with Warner before he was caught behind from the bowling of Shaheen Shah Afridi in the 30th over and had to leave the field.

In earlier pre-game TV interviews, he said there’d been precedents where cricketers had been allowed to show support for other causes.

“I find it a little bit disappointing they came down hard on me and they don’t always come down hard on everyone,” Khawaja said.

Governing body Cricket Australia backed Khawaja’s right to express his support for the people of Gaza but expected him to conform to ICC playing equipment ruled.

“We support the right of our players to express personal opinions, but the ICC has rules in place which prohibit the display of personal messages which we expect the players to uphold,” Cricket Australia said in a statement.

Captain Pat Cummins later told a media conference that Khawaja had decided against wearing the boots during the match.

“Uzzie doesn’t want to make too big of a fuss,” Cummins said. “On his shoes he had, ‘all lives are equal’. I think that’s not very divisive. I don’t think anyone can really have too many complaints about that.”

England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who like Khawaja is a Muslim with Pakistani heritage, was banned from wearing wristbands featuring the slogans ‘Save Gaza’ and ‘Free Palestine’ by the ICC in 2014.

The ICC did, however, allow players to take the knee before international matches in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in 2020 and 2021.

Source : Sky Sports