ICC slammed for blocking Australian cricketer’s show of support for Gaza

Khawaja’s attempt to have message of support and peace sign on his boots was blocked by cricket’s world governing body.

Usman Khawaja playing for Australia
Australia's Usman Khawaja [Rui Vieira/AP Photo]

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been slammed for showing a “lack of moral standing” after it refused to allow an Australian cricketer to show on-field support for Gaza where more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks.

Australia’s Usman Khawaja had “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” written on his boots in the colours of the Palestinian flag in a training session ahead of the first match against Pakistan earlier this month.

In an emotional post on X, Khawaja later said the ICC “told me I can’t wear my shoes on the field because they believe it’s a political statement under their guidelines”.

He was also reprimanded by the ICC for sporting a black armband, which the batter said was for a personal bereavement.

His next attempt – printing a dove and an olive branch on his bat and shoes – was also blocked by the ICC with a spokesperson for cricket’s world governing body being quoted by ESPNCricinfo as saying that “personal messages of this nature are not allowed as per Clause F of the Clothing and Equipment Regulations”.

“The ICC is supportive of players using their platforms outside of the playing arena to promote human rights, peace and equality and would encourage him to continue to use alternative platforms,” the ICC spokesperson added.

Khawaja said the logo, a reference to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was approved by Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association.

“I respect the ICC and the rules and regulations they have. I will be asking them and contesting they make it fair and equitable for everyone and they have consistency in how they officiate,” Khawaja said on Friday. “That consistency hasn’t been done yet. I was very open and honest with that. I’ll deal with that with the ICC.”

In 2014, England all-rounder Moeen Ali was banned by the ICC from wearing wristbands featuring the slogans “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

However, in 2019, Indian cricketers wore army camouflage-style caps in a match against Australia in solidarity with Indian paramilitary police killed in an attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The ICC also allowed players to “take the knee” before international matches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 and 2021.

“I have been following the Khawaja fiasco and I cannot say I’m surprised by the ICC’s stance,” said former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding.

“If it had been most other organisations that showed some semblance of consistency with their attitude and behaviour on issues I could claim surprise, but not them. Once again, they show their hypocrisy and lack of moral standing as an organisation.”

“The ICC regulations say re messaging ‘approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes’, so how were people allowed to take the knee for BLM and stumps were covered with LGBTQ colours?”

Australian captain Pat Cummins also backed Khawaja’s stance and show of support while questioning the ICC’s lack of clarity over rules that allow players to show support for such causes.

“I think he’s standing up for what he believes and I think he’s doing it really respectfully. All lives are equal and I don’t think that’s very offensive, and I’d say the same about the dove,” said Cummins.

Israel launched an all-out attack on Gaza after the October 7 attack by Hamas. In addition to the 20,000 people killed in the besieged enclave, more than 54,000 have been wounded and hundreds are still reported to be buried under the rubble.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies