Cricket NSW chief executive, Lee Germon, has ‘spoken at length’ with Sydney Thunder recruit Alex Hales after an English publication featured a blackface photograph taken of Hales at a party 12-years-ago dressed as an American rap singer.
The photograph appeared after Hales publicly refuted Azeem Rafiq’s claim – made under parliamentary privilege, and while providing evidence to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport committee – that Hales named his black dog ‘Kevin’ based on a derogative term that was allegedly used by England players to describe people from Black and Asian backgrounds.
While emphasising his empathy for Rafiq, a former Yorkshire player, Hales ‘categorically denied’ that there was a racist undertone in the name he chose for his pet.
Since Rafiq’s allegation, a photograph that was taken in 2009 of Hales dressed as the American rapper Tupac Shakur appeared in an English publication. Hales said in a separate statement his decision to dress as Tupac was simply the act of a fan expressing admiration for their musical hero.
"I dressed in tribute to my musical hero, Tupac Shakur, someone who I’ve admired from childhood," said Hales. "I echo my statement from earlier in the week and stress how much I deplore racism."
Hales has posted (of his own volition) a heartfelt apology to those who were offended by the photo, admitting it was one of the reckless incidents from his younger years that he’ll regret for the rest of his life.
"I obviously realise that this is incredibly disrespectful, and I want to apologise for the offence that this has no doubt caused," he said.
"It was incredibly reckless and foolish on my behalf and so I want to apologise for that, apologise to the club for the embarrassment it would have caused them...
"My 20s was full of mistakes like that. Reckless mistakes off the field that let down family, let down teammates, let down friends... close relationships I had during my 20s...
"Some of those decisions I will regret for the rest of my life."
Hales stressed he deplored all forms of racism and discrimination, and that he was proud to play in a game that embraces diversity.
Germon, who has overseen Cricket NSW’s (Indigenous) Reconciliation Action Plan, and has spearheaded the sport’s desire to become even more inclusive through a variety of targeted community initiatives, said there was no room for racism or any form of discrimination in the sport.
"There is no place in cricket – or society – for racism or discrimination," said Germon who, as the chief executive of Cricket NSW, also oversees the Thunder and Sydney Sixers W/BBL teams.
"It demeans those who are subjected to it, as well as those who choose to indulge in it."
"What we’ve learnt is racism can cripple people... it’s destructive... and must be stamped out."
Germon said he and Hales discussed, among other things, Sydney Thunder’s principles and the expectations placed on each of its players.
The Cricket NSW chief executive said while he’s aware Hales’ English County team, Nottinghamshire, was investigating the ‘Kevin’ allegation, he was making his statement concerning Hales and his role at Sydney Thunder based on the information he and other CNSW officials currently have.
"One of the hallmarks of Thunder Nation’s success is the team embraces diversity, and is a club for all," said Germon. "If we really believe that we also must accept people who have made mistakes. I’ve spoken to Alex, I’ve watched his apology, and have no doubt he is remorseful for the photograph and the other errors of judgement he made as a young man.
"The photo in question was taken 12-years-ago, and Alex has insisted it was nothing more than a tribute to his favourite rap artist. Alex appreciates that going by today’s standards people will question his judgement and actions and he’s offered them a sincere apology.
"What came through in our conversation is Alex believes in Sydney Thunder’s goal to be a loved club. He understands Thunder wants to provide people – including those who are who are newcomers to Australia – with a sporting team they can identify with regardless of their background. He also knows the region the team represent, Sydney’s western suburbs, has one of the most diverse cultural communities in the world.
"We want everyone who comes to a Sydney Thunder match to know it is a safe place; one of mutual respect for them and their families.
"Alex is aware he’s in a position where he can drive that, and he’s made it clear to me that he is determined to help.
"It’s fair to also note that as Alex prepares for his third season with Sydney Thunder, I’ve been told by his teammates and the club’s staff that he’s been a tremendous teammate and ambassador for Thunder’s ideals and aspirations. I understand he’s only ever been enthusiastic – and genuine – in his many interactions with fans.
"He realises such actions can go a long way to making a difference in the lives of the people who come from what we call ‘Thunder Nation.’ I have no doubt, based on our conversation, he wants to continue championing that change."