Usman Khawaja will challenge his ICC charge for wearing a black armband during the first Test against Pakistan in Perth having told the governing body it was for a “personal bereavement” but added that he won’t continue to wear one in the MCG Test which starts on Boxing Day.
Khawaja wore the armband having initially planned to take the field with writing on his shoes which he had worn in training stating “all lives are equal” and “freedom is a human right” to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Black armbands are a regular sight in international cricket to mark the deaths of former players, family members, or other significant individuals, but they need permission from the national board and the ICC.
Speaking at the MCG on Friday, Khawaja said that he did not believe ICC was implementing its regulations consistently.
“They asked me on day two [in Perth] what it was for and told them it was for a personal bereavement,” he said of the armband. “I never 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. I followed all the regulations and past precedents, guys who put stickers on their bats, and names on their shoes, did all sorts of things in the past without ICC approval and have never been reprimanded.
“I respect the ICC and the rules and regulations they have. I will be asking them and contesting whether they make it fair and equitable for everyone and whether they have consistency in how they officiate. That consistency hasn’t been done yet. I was very open and honest with that. I’ll deal with that with the ICC.”
There was no official statement when Khawaja wore the armband on the first day in Perth, but at the time it was understood to be about the video he’d posted on social media after being told he could not show the messages on his shoes.
Nick Hockley, the Cricket Australia CEO, confirmed the board was having ongoing discussions with ICC about whether there was a way that Khawaja could share his message although it remains uncertain whether a conclusion to those talks would be reached in time for the Boxing Day Test.
Under the level that Khawaja has been charged with, a reprimand is the most serious punishment so if that did eventuate it would not leave him in any doubt for the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan. Even a fourth such sanction in 12 months would only be a penalty of 75% of the match fee rather than a suspension.
“Usman Khawaja has been charged for breaching Clause F of the Clothing and Equipment Regulations,” an ICC spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. “Usman displayed a personal message (armband) during the first 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 offense is a reprimand.”
The ICC’s clothing and equipment regulations state: “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 (eg. an armband) 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.”
Khawaja reiterated what he said in his video before the Perth Test, that he was not taking a political stance and was instead trying to bring awareness to the suffering.
“I don’t have any agendas other than to shine a light on what I feel very passionate and strong about,” he said. “I’m trying to do it in the most respectful way possible. What I wrote on my shoes, I thought about it for a while. I made sure I didn’t want to segregate different parts of the population, religious beliefs, and community. I wanted it to be really broad because I’m speaking about humanitarian issues. I’m talking about article one in the Unified Declaration of Human Rights. The reason I’m doing it is because it hit me hard.
“I told Nick that when I’m looking at my Instagram and seeing innocent kids, videos of them dying, passing away, that’s what hit me the hardest. I just imagine my young daughter in my arms and the same thing. I get emotional talking about it again. I don’t have any hidden agendas.
“If anything this brings up more negativity towards me…I don’t get anything out of this. I just feel like it’s my responsibility to speak up on this. We live in such a beautiful country. I’m blessed to live in Australia. I can walk outside, don’t have to worry about a thing. My kids can do the same. I just want that for the rest of the world.”