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'You'd be shocked': Khawaja vows to 'fight' CA ban on anti-war statement as he's told he has 'zero right' to protest

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13th December, 2023
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Usman Khawaja says he will fight the ICC and Cricket Australia to be allowed to share what he calls a “humanitarian message” of peace in the Test against Pakistan in Perth.

Khawaja wore shoes sporting the handwritten slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” at the Australia team’s training session on Tuesday.

He had planned to wear them in the game but after media reports indicating this, Cricket Australia said he would not be allowed to.

“We support the right of our players to express personal opinions,” CA said in a statement.

“But the ICC has rules in place which prohibit the display of personal messages which we expect the players to uphold.”

His captain Pat Cummins said Khwaja had accepted he would not wear the shoes in the game – but the Test veteran indicated he was not content with the decision in a social media post later Wednesday.

“I’ve noticed what I’ve written on my shoes has caused a little bit of a stir. I won’t say much, I don’t need to,” he said.

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“But what I do want is for everyone who did get offended, somehow, is 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 as a resulted people being offended, to the point where they’re calling me up, and telling me, well isn’t that the bigger problem?

“These people obviously don’t believe in what I’ve written. It’s not just a handful of people. You’d be shocked about how many feel this way.

“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 dying, without any repercussions, or remorse I imagined my two girls. What if this was them?

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“No one chooses 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 lack of equality was life or death.

“The ICC have told me that I can’t wear my shoes on field because they believe it’s a political statement under their guidelines. I don’t believe it is 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. And all lives are equal. I will never stop believing that, whether you agree with me or not.”

Cummins earlier told reporters:

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“It’s one of our strongest points, our team, that everyone has their own passionate views and individual thoughts.

“Chatted to Uzzie briefly about it today. I don’t think his intention was to make too bit of a fuss, but we support him.

“He said he won’t (wear the shoes)

“I don’t know if Uzzie was across (the ICC rules).

“On his shoes were, ‘All Lives Are Equal’. I don’t think that’s very divisive. I don’t think anyone can really have too many complaints about that.

“Everyone in our team has their own individual thoughts, and I love that. You want everyone to being their own individual self to the team.

“What was on the shoes, ‘All Lives Are Equal’. I support that.”

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The issue came to a head earlier Wednesday.

News Corp reported that Khawaja was “poised” to display the same messages on his shoes during the first Test against Pakistan starting Thursday.

Nine also reported that Khawaja was “planning to wear shoes during the Perth Test against Pakistan on Thursday that are emblazoned with slogans supporting Palestinians caught in the fighting in Gaza.

“The leading Test batter in the world over the past two years and a proud Muslim, Khawaja has been deeply affected by the distressing scenes emanating from Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attacks that resulted in Israeli retaliation, often sharing videos and photos from the conflict on social media.”

His stance was panned by former Australian all-rounder Simon O’Donnell.

“I fully respect Usman Khawaja’s beliefs personally. He should be able to state his beliefs on his own platform,” he said on SEN Radio.

“But while he’s representing Australia he has no right, nil, zero, to bring his personal beliefs and instil those onto others.”

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In 2014, England spinner Moeen Ali was reprimanded for wearing wristbands with the messages “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” written on them.

Usman Khawaja looks on while waiting to bat during an Australian nets session at the WACA on December 11, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Usman Khawaja’s cricket boots. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“The ICC equipment and clothing regulations do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match,” the ICC said.

“Moeen Ali was told by the match referee that whilst he is free to express his views on such causes away from the cricket field, he is not permitted to wear the wristbands on the field of play and warned not to wear the bands again during an international match.”

The ICC rules on such matters are as follows.

CC clothing and equipment regulations

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Players and team officials shall not be permitted to wear, display or otherwise convey personal messages on their clothing, equipment or otherwise, irrespective of whether such messages are affixed to clothing, equipment or otherwise and whether such messages are displayed or conveyed through the use of the specific clothing or other items (e.g. an arm band) or by the use of words, symbol, graphic message, images or otherwise (“Personal Messages”), unless approved in advance by both the player or team official’s Board and the ICC Cricket Operations Department.

Approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes. The ICC shall have the final say in determining whether any such message is approved. For the avoidance of doubt, where a message is approved by the player or team official’s Board but subsequently disapproved by the ICC’s Cricket Operations Department, the player or team official shall not be permitted to wear, display or otherwise convey such message in International Matches.

Guidance note

In determining whether a message is for a “political, religious or racial cause”, the starting point is that the ICC and its Members acknowledge and agree that cricket should be used as a tool to bring people and communities around the world together and not as a platform to draw attention to potentially divisive political issues, rhetoric or agendas.

Each case must be considered on its own facts and the ICC will take into account all relevant circumstances, including (as it sees fit): (a) the views of any other relevant team or individual; (b) the likely sentiment and response in the media to the message in all relevant countries; (c) whether the message is a ‘one-off’ or whether it is to be displayed for a longer period; (d) the purpose and impact of conveying the message.

By way of example only, and without limitation, where the purpose of a message appears to be commemorative in nature (e.g. the use of a black armband or a poppy) or to serve a charitable purpose (e.g. to generate funds or awareness for a non-political charitable cause), it is more likely to be permitted; where a message appears to indicate support for a particular government, political party or individual, it is more likely to be prohibited. Where a request for approval is submitted to the ICC, the ICC shall be entitled to request such further information as it considers necessary before making its decision and to impose such conditions as it sees fit in providing its approval.

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