England cricketer Alex Hales pictured in blackface after denying racism claims

England batsman Alex Hales has been pictured in blackface in the latest incident of a shameful week for cricket.

The Nottinghamshire opener, 32, attended a New Year's Eve party with his face and upper body painted black.

Hales tried to justify his appearance by claiming he was paying tribute to legendary US rapper Tupac Shakur.

"In 2009, I attended a New Year’s Eve musical tribute fancy dress party. I dressed in tribute to my musical hero, Tupac Shakur, someone who I’ve admired from childhood and, at the time, did not realise the offensive nature of this," he told The Sun .

"I echo my statement from earlier in the week and stress how much I deplore racism and discrimination in all its forms."

However, Hales faced severe backlash from anti-racism campaigners and MPs. The England and Wales Cricket Board are also investigating the player, who has made 141 appearances for his country across all three formats.

It comes after Hales denied naming his dog after a racial slur used at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq appeared before the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee earlier this week to discuss the racist culture he was subject to at the club and made allegations against Hales.

Responding to the picture of Hales, Julian Knight MP, the chair of the committee, said: "This picture – coming on the back of a week when cricket was shamed like never before – is incredibly disturbing and offensive. The very soul of English cricket is now at stake."

Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, added: "There is no scenario in which blackface is acceptable. To describe it as a 'tribute' is beyond reproach."

Meanwhile, during the hearing, Rafiq claimed Hales named his dog 'Kevin' after a slur allegedly used by former teammate and ex-England international Gary Ballance.

"Kevin was something Gary used for people of colour in a derogatory manner. All the time," Rafiq told the committee.

"Gary and Alex Hales got very close to each other playing for England but I understand Alex went on to name his dog Kevin because it was black.

"It is disgusting how much of a joke it became."

Hales has often referred to his dog as 'Kev' on social media and in 2018 he wrote on Instagram : "Shoutout to big Kev on national pet day! #nationalpetday."

However, he strongly denied Rafiq's allegations and expressed sympathy for the racism he was subject to at Yorkshire.

Hales said in a statement: "Having heard the allegations made against me, I categorically and absolutely deny there was any racial connotation in the naming of my dog.

"I entirely respect and have huge sympathy for both the stance Azeem Rafiq has taken and what he has had to endure. His evidence was harrowing.

"There is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind in cricket and I will gladly co-operate with any investigation the game's authorities choose to hold."

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