Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja to ‘fight’ ban on ‘political message’ written on shoes during Test

Usman Khawaja bats during an Australian nets session the at the WACA on December 10, 2023 in Perth, Australia.

Usman Khawaja during an Australian nets session the at the WACA on December 10, 2023 in Perth, Australia.Paul Kane/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Australia batsman Usman Khawaja says he’ll “fight” for approval to wear shoes that say “all lives are equal” during a Test match in Perth, after the International Cricket Council (ICC) told him it would break their rules.

Khawaja, a Muslim with Pakistani heritage, had been pictured in training wearing a shoe with the phrase written across it in red, green and black. The words “freedom is a human right” were reportedly written on the other.

Khawaja said in an Instagram video posted Wednesday that ICC officials told him he couldn’t wear the shoes on the field “because they believe it’s a political statement.”

“I don’t believe it is so. It’s a humanitarian appeal,” Khawaja said in the video. “I will respect their view and decision, but I will fight it and seek to gain approval.”

When reached by CNN for comment, the ICC referred to page 7 of its regulations titled “Playing: Clothing and Equipment Regulations – Effective May 2023.”

“Approval shall not be granted for messages which relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes. The ICC shall have the final say in determining whether any such message is approved,” the ICC’s guidelines read.

CNN has also reached out to Cricket Australia for comment.

Khawaja’s message struck a chord on social media, where some came out in strong support of the player, while others criticized his stance.

“I’ve noticed that what I’ve written on my shoes has caused a little bit of a stir,” he said in the video. “I won’t say much. I don’t need to. But what I do want is for everyone who did get offended, somehow is to ask yourself these questions.

“Is freedom not for everyone? Are all lives not equal?”

Khawaja did not directly refer to the Israel-Hamas war in his latest video message, but the player has posted in support of Palestinians in recent weeks as Israel continues its bombardment of the Gaza Strip following the October 7 Hamas terror attacks that killed around 1,200 people.

As of Monday, more than 18,000 people had been killed in Israel’s bombardment of the strip, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

Khawaja said the phrases on his shoes were not political.

“I’m not taking sides,” he said in the video. “Human life to me is equal. One Jewish life is equal to one Muslim life is equal to one Hindu life and so on.”

The shoes of Usman Khawaja are pictured during an Australian nets session the at the WACA on December 11, 2023 in Perth, Australia.

The shoes of Usman Khawaja pictured during an Australian nets session the at the WACA on December 11, 2023 in Perth, Australia.Paul Kane/Getty Images

Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers spoke in support of Khawaja in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Cooperation on Thursday, saying the ICC should allow him to wear the statement.

“All lives are equal, and they should let him wear the shoes. I don’t think it’s an especially controversial statement,” he said. “I find it unusual, frankly, that people want to dispute the lives on one side of a conflict are not worth any more or any less than the lives on the other side of a conflict.”

The leaders of Australia, Canada and New Zealand – three of the United States’ closest allies – issued a joint statement Tuesday calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, shortly before the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution to demand a ceasefire.

Australia was one of 153 countries that backed the resolution, marking a divergence from the US, which was among just 10 nations that voted against it. Another 23 abstained.

Australia kick starts its five-game Test series against Pakistan on Thursday at Optus Stadium in Perth.

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