The former England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent has been subjected to horrific abuse in the form of a racist hate letter, telling her to “leave our country”.
Rainford-Brent, who became the first black woman to play for England in 2001, posted the grotesque correspondence on Twitter in a week where English cricket has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
She captioned her tweet: “Interesting … Born in South London but apparently I was found naked in Africa as a primitive. Had some letters in my time but this one up there!”
The handwritten, splenetic letter included a volley of racist and sexist terms, said “white culture is white culture” and told Rainford-Brent to “leave our country”.
It said: “We found you NAKED in Africa Ebony! NAKED, illiterate, primitive! Yes primitive Ebony!!”
Azeem Rafiq’s testimony in front of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday shone a devastating light on institutions and individuals within cricket and, speaking on Wednesday, the former Yorkshire all-rounder told the BBC: “It’s really important the game and wider society listens to my experiences and we don’t let this moment go and we try to use this as a watershed moment for the future.”
Rainford-Brent played 29 times for England between 2001-2010 before moving into broadcasting, featuring regularly for Sky Sports and Test Match Special. She joined forces with her Sky colleague Michael Holding in the summer of 2020 to feature in a powerful video discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, a campaign that saw the pair awarded the Freedom of the City of London. In the short film, Rainford-Brent spoke about how regular comments about her ethnicity made her question her future in the game.
“I grew up in a very multicultural diverse London with all colours – black, white, Asian,” she said. “It was a melting pot and I noticed that as soon as I walked into the world of cricket the comments started. I had comments about where I grew up, the fact I had a long name, my mum didn’t know who my dads were; about my hair, body parts, especially the derriere shall we say; the food that I ate stank.
“It was just constant, ‘did I wash my skin?’ or, ‘Everyone in your area gets stabbed’. All these things would drip-feed constantly. I’ve been in environments with people constantly referring to ‘your lot’. I’m not surprised people who come into the environment don’t want to deal with that.
“I question myself why I stayed so long. I love the game, it has so much more to offer, but it can be really difficult dealing with that day in and day out.”