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'Makes no sense': Khawaja slams ICC charge over first Test armband protest as Albanese goes into bat for opener

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22nd December, 2023
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Usman Khawaja has hit back at the International Cricket Council, after being sanctioned for wearing a black armband during the first Test against Pakistan in protest of the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine.

The 37-year old was hit with a reprimand from the sporting body, after being deemed to have breached ICC rules.

After being informed that his original message – slogans ‘All lives are equal’ and ‘Freedom is a human right’ on his shoes – were prohibited and he would not be permitted to take the field in Perth were he to wear them, Khawaja instead chose to don the armband in support of civilians in Gaza.

However, the ICC have confirmed that too was a breach given he wore the armband without prior approval, handing the 37-year old an official warning and reprimand, and ensuring Khawaja will need to risk further sanction in order to repeat the protest during the Boxing Day Test.

“Usman Khawaja has been charged for breaching Clause F of the Clothing and Equipment Regulations, which can be found on the ICC Playing Conditions page. The sanctions for a breach of the regulations are outlined in Appendix 2,” an ICC spokesperson said in a statement.

“Usman displayed a personal message (arm band) during the 1st Test Match against Pakistan without seeking the prior approval of Cricket Australia and the ICC to display it, as required in the regulations for personal messages. This is a breach under the category of an “other breach” and the sanction for a first offence is a reprimand.”

Usman Khawaja.

Usman Khawaja was given a reprimand for wearing a black armband to protest the violence in Gaza throughout the first Test against Pakistan. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)


Speaking at the MCG for the launch of Cricket Australia’s Multicultural Action Plan, Khawaja said the sanction ‘made no sense’, adding that he informed the ICC that his armband was due to a ‘personal bereavement’.

“They [the ICC] asked me on day two what it [black armband] was for and told them it was for a personal bereavement,” Khawaja said at the MCG on Friday. “I never ever stated it was for anything else. 

“The shoes were a different matter, I’m happy to say that. The armband makes no sense to me.”

Khawaja was confused by past incidents of players displaying messages but not being punished by the ICC.

“I followed all the regulations and past precedents,” Khawaja said. “Guys have put stickers on their bats, names on their shoes. They have done all sorts of things in the past without ICC approval and never been reprimanded.

“I respect what the ICC (says) 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. 

“That consistency hasn’t been done yet.”


Khawaja gave thoughtful answers when explaining why he wanted to display the messages on his shoes. The left-hander said he doesn’t have “any agendas”.

“What I wrote on my shoes, I thought about it for a while,” Khawaja said. “I made sure I didn’t want to segregate different parts of the population; religious beliefs and communities. 

“I wanted it to be really broad because I’m speaking about humanitarian issues. The reason I’m doing it is because it hit me hard.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has even weighed in on the situation.

“Usman Khawaja is a great Australian cricketer and the position he put forward is one that I think is pretty uncontroversial,” he told reporters on Friday.

“One that all lives are equal is a sentiment that I think is uncontroversial, and I think that he’s someone who plays a really important role for Australian cricket. 


“Usman Khawaja made his position clear, which is he didn’t see it as a political statement.”

Under ICC rules, players are prohibited from wearing messages on attire in regard to a ‘political, religious or racial cause’.

“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 (as applicable),” the official regulations read.

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Famously, Zimbabwean greats Henry Olonga and Andy Flower wore black armbands to commemorate ‘the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe’ during the 2023 World Cup, but were not sanctioned by the ICC despite being found to be in breach of the rules.

Khawaja has already hit out at the ICC’s ruling against the messages on his shoes, saying before play in Perth that he was ‘just speaking up for those who don’t have a voice’.


“Let’s be honest about it. If me saying ‘all lives are equal’ has resulted in people being offended to the point where they are calling me up and telling me off, well isn’t that the bigger problem?” Khawaja said in an interview with Channel 7.

“These people obviously don’t believe in what I’ve written. And 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 imagine my two girls. What if this was them?

“The ICC have told me that I can’t wear my shoes on the 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 their 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.”

(with AAP)