Usman Khawaja's eye-opening new move amid furore over ICC's ban on shoe message

The Aussie cricket star has gone on the attack after controversy erupted on the eve of the first Test against Pakistan.

Usman Khawaja
Usman Khawaja wore a black armband on the morning of first Test against Pakistan. Image: Getty

Usman Khawaja has called out the International Cricket Council's apparent double standards after he was banned from wearing a pair of shoes that had slogans "all lives are equal" and "freedom is a human right" written on them. Khawaja was spotted wearing the shoes earlier this week at training, and had planned to wear them on Thursday during the first Test of the summer against Pakistan in Perth.

But the ICC ruled that the Aussie veteran couldn't wear them during the game due to rules around players making political statements. He instead donned a black armband as he headed out to bat on the morning of the first Test.

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The 36-year-old earlier said he's been deeply affected by the situation in the Middle East and fired back at critics who took exception to the message he was trying to send. The opener doubled down on Thursday morning in Perth, saying his words weren't political in nature and pointing out other statements in recent years that have been allowed. 

Usman Khawaja shoes, pictured here before the first Test against Pakistan.
The shoes Usman Khawaja planned to wear for the first Test against Pakistan. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

“I just think that so much has happened in the past that sets a precedent,” he told Fox Sports. “I mean full support of Black Lives Matter. There’s plenty of guys have written on their shoes before.

“Other guys that have religious things on their equipment, under the ICC guidelines that’s not technically allowed but the ICC never says anything on that. I find it a little disappointing that they came down hard on me but they don’t always come down hard on everyone else. That was probably the most frustrating part.

"All I can do is fight it in the appropriately and however I can. I’m not going to get emotional. There’s already enough emotion in this. I’m not doing this for any other reason than to spread the word and to speak for those who don’t have a voice. I always came in with good intentions and I’ll leave with good intentions.”

In a video posted to social media on Wednesday evening, Khawaja said he has decided not to wear the shoes for the time being - but he will seek approval from the ICC in a bid to change their minds. "The ICC have told me I can't wear my shoes on the field because they believe it's a political statement under their guidelines," he said during the emotional video.

"I don't believe in this though. It's a humanitarian appeal. I will respect their view and decision, but I will fight it and seek to get an approval.

"Freedom is a human right. 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."

Usman Khawaja's heartbreaking admission about daughters

The 66-Test veteran was born in Pakistan and is the first Muslim to represent Australia in international cricket. He made the heartbreaking admission that he can't help but think of his two young daughters when he sees some of the devastating things that are going on in the Middle East.

"This is close to my heart," he said as he fought back tears. "When I see thousands of innocent children dying without any repercussions or remorse, I imagine my two girls.

"What if this was them? No one chooses where they're born. And then (when) I see the world turn their backs on them, my heart can't take it.

"Let's be honest about it. If me saying all lives are equal has resulted in people being offended - to the point where they're calling me up and telling me off - 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."

Usman Khawaja, pictured here with his wife and daughters.
Usman Khawaja with his wife and daughters during the Ashes earlier in 2023. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Pat Cummins and cricket world rallies around Usman Khawaja

Aussie captain Pat Cummins said he supports Khawaja's stance and that the team were right behind him. "I think everyone in our team has their own individual thoughts and I love that," Cummins said.

"I think it's one of our strongest points. You want everyone to bring their own individual self to the team. And what was on the shoes - all lives are equal - I mean, I support that. I think that's not very divisive. I don't think anyone can really have too many complaints about that."

Former Test all-rounder Simon O'Donnell was one of the most vocal critics of Khawaja's stance on Wednesday, saying the opener had "no right" to impose his "personal beliefs" on others. But cricket fans and commentators rallied around Khawaja on social media, sending messages of respect and support to the much-loved player.

with AAP

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