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Usman Khawaja cops reprimand from ICC over black armband worn in first cricket Test

The 36-year-old received an official reprimand from the ICC for wearing a black armband in Australia's first Test.

Usman Khawaja has been reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for wearing a black armband during Australia's first Test victory over Pakistan. Image: Getty
Usman Khawaja has been reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for wearing a black armband during Australia's first Test victory over Pakistan. Image: Getty

Usman Khawaja has been reprimanded by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for wearing a black armband during Australia's crushing 360-run first Test victory over Pakistan. Most of the talk around Khawaja ahead of the first Test surrounded the humanitarian message that the Aussie cricket star was banned from displaying on his shoes.

On the eve of the first Test, the ICC moved to ban his premeditated shoe protest which consisted of handwritten slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” on his footwear. He was warned that he would face heavy sanctions if he wore the shoes with the messages visible as the governing body has rules in place that prohibit the display of personal beliefs that relate to politics, religion or race. The messages were covered up with pieces of tape that had the words Aisha and Ayla, his two daughters' names written on them.

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However, as a result of the black armband he wore not being approved by the ICC, he was found to be in breach of its Clothing and Equipment Regulations.

"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," an ICC spokesperson said. "This is a breach under the category of an 'other breach' and the sanction for a first offence is a reprimand."

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 15: The name Ayla and Aisha can be seen on the shoes of Usman Khawaja of Australia during day two of the Men's First Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Optus Stadium on December 15, 2023 in Perth, Australia (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)
Khawaja's pro-Palestine messages were covered up with tape and were replaced with the names of his two daughter's, Aisha and Ayla. Image: Getty (Will Russell via Getty Images)

Khawaja, who scored 41 and 90 in the first Test previously vowed to fight the ICC insisting that his message was not political. If he were to make a statement again during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, stricter punishments could come into play.

At the MCG on Friday morning, Khawaja said he "followed all the regulations" and didn't know why he was being reprimanded."I followed all the regulations, past precedents, guys have put stickers on their bats, names on their shoes," he said.

"As I said to the ICC, it was for a personal bereavement. The armband was different to my shoes. My shoes are very obvious. And I, at the end of the day, I didn’t wear the shoes, I changed my mind in respect for the rules and procedures and I left it at that.

"I think there’s been plenty of people who’ve not had permission to wear stuff in the past. I was very clear and open about the armband, so I’ll deal with that with the ICC and I’ll have those conversations with them."

Khawaja previously said he believes it is unfair the governing body stepped in and prevented him from delivering his message, pointing out inconsistencies in the ICC’s rulings where some players have previously been approved to show personal messages. Khawaja - who was born in Pakistan - explained recently that the conflict had deeply affected him and insisted his message was not a political statement.

The batsman said seeing young children dying in the current conflict made him think about his own young children. “When I see thousands of innocent people dying without any repercussion or remorse, I imagine my two girls," he said in a video posted to social media before the series. What if this was them? No one chooses where they’re born. And then I see the world turn their backs on them, my heart can’t take it.”

Usman Khawaja's armband act a breach of ICC regulations

The ICC’s clothing and equipment regulations state: “In determining whether a message is for a 'political, religious or racial cause', the starting point is that the ICC and its members acknowledge and agree that cricket should be used as a tool to bring people and comm1unities around the world together and not as a platform to draw attention to potentially divisive political issues, rhetoric or agendas.

"Each case must be considered on its own facts and the ICC will take into account all relevant circumstances, including (as it sees fit): (a) the views of any other relevant team or individual; (b) the likely sentiment and response in the media to the message in all relevant countries; (c) whether the message is a ‘one-off’ or whether it is to be displayed for a longer period; (d) the purpose and impact of conveying the message," the regulations continue.

"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)."

- with AAP

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