In the past few years, the world has seen athletes expressing themselves on various platforms. In the world of basketball, Los Angeles Lakers' Forward LeBron James is “more than an athlete” for a particular reason. He speaks his mind, expresses his political views and the issues faced by the African American community. Many like him are vocal about their views and opinion such as Serena Williams and Colin Kaepernick.
In the world of cricket, you do not find too many players who express their political and cultural views. If a player speaks on issues other than cricket, the fans ask them to concentrate on their game. When Indian cricketers are not performing well, fans give them “advice” and ask them to concentrate on their game instead of talking about other issues. Players are often asked to stick to the game and have no views outside it.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali is the only exception when it comes to cricketers being open about their faith. For all teams he has represented, Moeen is known to win games with both bat and ball. Yet, there have been instances where he faced religious discrimination. Recently, controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen in a now-deleted tweet said, “If Moeen Ali had not stuck to cricket, he would have gone to Syria to join ISIS.”
Several English cricketers and fans slammed the Bangladeshi writer for her tweet.
She deleted the tweet and put out another one, saying that it was just sarcasm and her “haters” decided to humiliate her for the tweet. However, Moeen's teammate Jofra Archer slammed her saying there was nothing sarcastic in the tweet.
Moeen’s father Munir Ali couldn’t believe that Nasreen chose her son to drive her agenda. He put out a statement saying, “I am hurt and shocked to read Taslima Nasreen’s vile remark against my son Moeen. In her “clarifying” tweet, where she described her original remark as sarcasm, she also says she stands against fundamentalism. If she looks into a mirror, she will know what she tweeted is what is fundamentalist — a vicious stereotype against a Muslim person, a clearly Islamophobic statement. Someone who doesn’t have self-respect and respect for others can only stoop to this level… Of all the people to pick on for her agenda, I can’t believe she has chosen my son. Everyone in the cricketing world knows the person he is. Let me reiterate for those who don’t. Of all the people to pick on for her agenda, I can’t believe she has chosen my son. Everyone in the cricketing world knows the person he is.”
In past interviews, Moeen has said that having a strong faith and still playing the game can go hand in hand. The England all-rounder is among the few players to not have logos of alcohol brands on his national team or any other domestic side jersey. The other well-known players to practice this trend were South African legend Hashim Amla, Pakistan’s Imad Wasim and Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan.
During a test match in the 2015 Ashes series, an Australian player had allegedly called Moen Osama on the field; however, the player denied it. Taking his complaint, Cricket Australia conducted a probe and informed the English all-rounder what they found. Moen then decided not to take the matter forward and that chapter was closed. He did reveal later that he was angry and he said that Australia is the only team he dislikes.
In the past, Moen has expressed concern over issues taking place in Palestine and Gaza. Moen wore “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” wristbands in the Southampton Test in 2014. He was reprimanded for wearing those wristbands during the game. He later agreed that it was not an appropriate platform to express his views. In recent times, Moen is not the only cricketer to express such views. West Indies cricketers have taken a knee before a match in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. However, BLM has not found a footing in the world of cricket.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has pointed out that the cricket field is not a place to express political, religious, and racial issues. However, the ICC can take a leaf from the NBA’s book. The NBA is the only sports league in the world that has provided a platform for basketball players and coaches to express their views with freedom.
However, in this and age social media has become a huge problem as it prejudices people on their views, thoughts and feelings. The only way to move forward is by eliminating these prejudices.