Cricket Australia warns Usman Khawaja against showing support for Gaza | Cricket

Cricket Australia on Wednesday declared their support for Usman Khawaja’s right to express solidarity with the people of Gaza, but they also emphasized the necessity for adherence to International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations prohibiting displays on playing equipment. Khawaja, the Aussie opener, had the phrases “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” inscribed on his boots in the colors of the Palestinian flag during Tuesday’s training session for the upcoming Test against Pakistan.

Australia’s Usman Khawaja attends a training session ahead of the three-match Test cricket series against Pakistan at Perth Stadium(AFP)

Reports from Australian media suggested that the Pakistan-born opener had intended to wear these boots during the match scheduled to begin at Perth Stadium on Thursday. Cricket Australia issued a statement asserting their backing for players’ right to express personal opinions but highlighted the ICC’s existing rules against the exhibition of personal messages.

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“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 confirmed that Khawaja had decided against wearing the boots during the match but supported his fellow teammate in the protest. “Uzzie doesn’t want to make too big of a fuss,” Cummins said, adding, “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.”

The ICC Code of Conduct explicitly prohibits players from displaying messages on clothing or equipment without prior approval. Such messages, particularly those related to political, religious, or racial activities or causes, are strictly forbidden. This aligns with the 2014 incident involving England batsman Moeen Ali, a Muslim with Pakistani heritage like Khawaja, who was banned from wearing wristbands featuring the slogans “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine.”

While the ICC has historically disallowed political expressions, it did permit players to “take the knee” before international matches in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in 2020 and 2021.

Australia’s Sports Minister Anika Wells voiced her unequivocal support for Khawaja, asserting athletes’ right to express opinions on matters important to them. She emphasized Khawaja’s peaceful and respectful expression of an individual opinion, asserting that it did not compromise the Australian cricket team’s obligations to the ICC.

“I have always advocated for athletes having the right to a voice and to speak up on matters important to them,” she told local media.

“Usman Khawaja is a great athlete and a great Australian. He should have every right to speak up on matters that are important to him.

“He has done so in a peaceful and respectful way. He has done so as an individual and expressed an individual opinion that does not compromise the Australian cricket team’s obligations to the ICC.”

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