Usman Khawaja to fight cricket authorities’ decision on Gaza message

Usman Khawaja's shoes which say "All lives are equal"
Image caption,Usman Khawaja wore the shoes during training in Perth earlier this week

By Simon Atkinson, Tiffanie Turnbull and Kelly Ng

in Brisbane, Sydney and Singapore

Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja says he will “fight” the decision to bar him from making an on-field statement in support of Palestinians.

The batter had planned to wear shoes bearing the words “all lives are equal” and “freedom is a human right” at a Test match with Pakistan.

The International Cricket Council did not allow this as it considered the statements “political”, Khawaja said.

He said in a video that the message was a “humanitarian appeal”.

In the emotional video posted on Instagram on Wednesday, the 36-year-old added: “I will respect (the International Cricket Council’s) view and decision, but I will fight it and seek to gain approval.”

Under ICC rules, Khawaja could be sidelined from the match if he wears the shoes without approval – something team captain Pat Cummins had earlier told media the batter will not do.

Khawaja, who is Muslim, was spotted sporting the shoes earlier this week while training for the upcoming Test in Perth. He has previously spoken on social media in support of civilians in Gaza.

“No one chooses where they are born… I already felt my life wasn’t equal to others when I was growing up. But luckily for me, I have never lived in a world where the lack of inequality was life or death,” he said in the video.

Earlier, Khawaja posted a Unicef video from Gaza on Instagram with the comments: “Do people not care about innocent humans being killed? Or is it the colour of their skin that makes them less important? Or the religion they practise? These things should be irrelevant if you truly believe that ‘we are all equal’.”

Cricket Australia on Wednesday said it supported “the right of our players to express personal opinions”, but that it expected them to uphold the ICC’s rules.

Cummins said he believed Khawaja had not been aware of the rules, but publicly supported his message.

“I don’t think his intention was to make too big of a fuss,” he said.

“I think he had ‘all lives are equal’. I don’t think that’s very divisive. I don’t think anyone can have too many complaints about that.”

Sport Minister Anika Wells has also backed the batter, saying she did not believe his shoes contravened ICC rules.

“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,” she said.

But former Australian cricketers Rodney Hogg and Simon O’Donnell have said the field is not the place for political statements.

“I fully respect Usman Khawaja’s beliefs personally‚Ķ but while he’s representing Australia he has no right, nil, zero, to bring his personal beliefs and instil those onto others,” O’Donnell told local SEN radio.

Under ICC rules, players and officials cannot display anything on their clothing or equipment without the governing body’s approval, with “potentially divisive” or political messages banned.

The regulations also empower referees to stop players taking the field if they are wearing any “non-compliant” items.

In 2014 England batter Moeen Ali was similarly warned to stop wearing wristbands showing support for Gaza during a Test match with India.

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