The South African men’s cricket team insists that it remains fully committed to the dismantling of racism, and will continue to use its platform within the country to address injustice, in the wake of criticism of the decision not to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the forthcoming series against England.
In a statement issued in the lead-up to Friday’s T20I at Cape Town, Cricket South Africa explained at length the reasons behind the decision, outlined last week by head coach Mark Boucher, who stated that the team had addressed issues of race at a team-building camp in August, and that the topic was “not something that we have to continue to show. It’s something that you have to live.”
Asked about Boucher’s comments on Monday, Kagiso Rabada said it was a “team decision”, and that “Mark stated the team won’t be kneeling”, but that he remained “100%” behind the BLM movement”. However, when Rassie van der Dussen was asked a similar question on Tuesday, CSA stepped in and said it was “drawing a line” under the BLM issue.
In a clarification of their stance, CSA explained that that the country’s racially charged history meant that the work of correcting historic inequality had to be a “process, not an event”. The board did, however, acknowledge that the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, represented a “cultural moment”, and that the Proteas team had spent the intervening six months engaging “with honesty, empathy and vulnerability” to explore their understanding of anti-racism, and why it matters so “profoundly”.
“Together, we are exploring the making of race historically, the ways racialised identity was used to create hierarchies of privilege and discrimination in South Africa and the ongoing legacy of colonialism and Apartheid,” read the CSA statement. “Together, we are exploring the development of Black Lives Matter in the sphere of sport, starting with the kneeling of American football quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in the US.
“Together, we are unpacking the historical and political context in which BLM grew in the US. Together, we are exploring the significance of taking the knee and a raised fist in the air as symbols of protest, and how and why these have spread globally as well as their significance in the South African context.
“We are committed to continuing to do this work together. The team firmly believes:
That a commitment to dismantling racism and the ongoing legacy of racialized inequality is a process, not an event;
That what is required is for us to commit to be anti-racist, not simply non-racist;
That this work starts with us individually and us as a team;
That our capacity to listen well to one another, to hear differing perspectives, and to express empathy and understanding matters greatly;
That we must use our platform to address injustice, to oppose racism and to champion racial justice.”
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Nevertheless, the decision not to take a knee has come in for widespread criticism within South Africa and abroad, both because they did so in a one-off capacity during the 3TC exhibition event on July 18, and because of the team’s commitment to wearing black armbands during the England series. That latter act, CSA explained, forms part of the country’s annual act of mourning the victims of gender-based violence (GBV), as well as this year’s victims of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is an act of solidarity in response to a particular issue that the country is focussing its attention on during the next two weeks,” CSA added, referencing an announcement from South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on November 11.
“As a team, we have unanimously chosen not to take the knee at the upcoming matches, but to continue to work together in our personal, team and public spaces to dismantle racism,” the statement continued.
“This decision was taken by the team collectively, after deep dialogue and attentive consideration. This is not a decision compelled on us by either our management or our coaches. Let us be clear, our team decision on not taking the knee does not indicate that we do not care about racism, racial equality, or justice. Now, more than ever, we are committed to this work.
“Our first job is to play cricket for the country but we are also citizens of this country. The Proteas team is a community within the wider community of South Africa. The conversations that are happening in the country as a whole are conversations we must be engaging with as a team. The issues that are facing the country as a whole are issues that must matter to us as a team.”
In conclusion, CSA acknowledged that the team’s choices “have impact on the country as a whole” and they “do not take this responsibility lightly”. However, they insisted that they are “building a team culture based on open and frank conversations, creating real and sustainable change, as well as embodying our team values of Belonging, Empathy and Respect”.