AUS vs PAK, Perth Test: Usman Khawaja won't wear shoes with pro-Palestine messages, says Pat Cummins
During training this week, Australia's opening batsman Usman Khawaja had hand-written slogans “Freedom is a human right” and “All lives are equal” on his footwear.
Australia's cricket captain, Pat Cummins, has confirmed that opener Usman Khawaja will not display any written messages on his shoes during the first Test against Pakistan in Perth, starting on Thursday, citing ICC regulations. Khawaja, who had the phrases "all lives are equal" and "freedom is a human right" on his batting spikes during Tuesday's training, did not inform his teammates or Cricket Australia about the messages beforehand.
Despite consistently sharing the same messages on social media in recent weeks, particularly in reference to the conflict in Gaza, there are no ICC rules addressing players' social media posts. Notably, Pakistan's wicketkeeper-batter, Mohammad Rizwan, faced no ICC sanctions for his social media commentary on the Gaza conflict during the ODI World Cup.
However, the ICC maintains strict regulations concerning "non-compliant" wording or logos on clothing during international matches. This is reminiscent of the 2014 incident involving England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who was asked by the ICC to remove wristbands bearing the slogans "Save Gaza" and "Free Palestine" during a Test match.
"I spoke to him just quickly and [Khawaja] said he won't be [wearing the statements]," Cummins said. "It kind of drew the attention to the ICC rules which I don't know if Uzzie was across beforehand. Uzzie doesn't want to make too big of a fuss. On his shoes he had 'all lives are equal'. I think that's not very divisive. I don't think anyone can really have too many complaints about that."
He added, "I think it's one of our strongest points in our team is that everyone has their own passionate views and individual thoughts and I chatted to Uzzie briefly about it today. And I don't think his intention is to make too big of a fuss, but we support him. I think what was on the shoes, 'all lives are equal', I support that."
Cricket Australia released a statement on Wednesday before Cummins 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 ICC regulations provide explicit guidelines on permissible attire for players, as detailed in a comprehensive 68-page document. According to these rules, players are prohibited from displaying messages on their clothing or equipment without prior approval from their board or the ICC. Notably, messages related to political causes "shall not be granted" approval.
The document recognizes cricket as a potential unifying force, capable of bringing people and communities together globally. However, it emphasizes that the sport should not serve as a platform to highlight potentially divisive political issues, rhetoric, or agendas.
The story has garnered attention from the Australian government, prompting a statement from federal sports minister Anika Wells in support of Usman Khawaja. Speaking at a press conference in Perth, she asserted, "As the federal sports minister, I have always advocated for athletes to have the right to have a voice and to speak up on matters that are important to them."
Wells continued to express her support for Khawaja, emphasizing his right to voice opinions in a peaceful and respectful manner. She acknowledged that Khawaja's individual expression should not compromise the Australian cricket team's obligations to the ICC.