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Black armband ‘stunt’ for Gaza: Cricketer Usman Khawaja charged by ICC for making political statement on field without prior permission

Though black armbands are regularly worn by players to mourn the deaths of former players, family members or other significant individuals, they need permission from the national board and the ICC before they are worn.

Australian opening batter Usman Khawaja has been charged by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for breaking regulations by wearing a black armband during the first Test against Pakistan at Perth without any prior approval, reported ESPNCricinfo on Thursday.

Khawaja wore the armband on the field instead of writing and wearing the message “all lives are equal” and “freedom is a human right” as he originally intended to in order to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Though black armbands are regularly worn by players to mourn the deaths of former players, family members or other significant individuals, they need permission from the national board and the ICC before they are worn.

“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 offence is a reprimand,” added the spokesperson.

As of Thursday, this is the charge against Khawaja and sanction is yet to be confirmed. He would not be in doubt for the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan even if the reprimand came to pass, and even a fourth such sanction in a year would only result in a penalty of 75 per cent of the match fee rather than a suspension. Nevertheless, it is unclear what would happen if Khawaja kept wearing the armband at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

The clothing and equipment regulations of ICC 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.”

Ahead of the Perth Test, after not opting to wear the shoes with humanitarian messages written on it, Khawaja had posted an emotional message on social media that he was not making a political statement and added that he would fight for his right to express himself.

“What I have written on my shoes is not political. I am not taking sides,” he said.

“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 am just speaking up for those who do not have a voice,” he added.

“The ICC have told me I cannot wear my shoes on the field because they feel it is a political statement under their guidelines. I do not believe it is so. It is a humanitarian appeal. I will respect their view and decision. But I will fight it and seek to gain approval,” concluded the batter.

Ahead of the Perth Test, Cricket Australia (CA) had also commented on the matter through a statement saying, “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.”

The opener is due to speak in Melbourne on Friday.

(This news report is published from a syndicated feed. Except for the headline, the content has not been written or edited by OpIndia staff)

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