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Black Lives Matter

South African players and their stance on ‘Black Lives Matter’

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For the last month and a half (or so), there’s been one topic –the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) movement– that has taken the world by storm. It has come on the back of the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after a white man knelt on him in Minneapolis. The video footage of that went viral and that triggered a massive outrage.

And it’s affected cricket too. Be it on social media, in press conferences or on the cricket field, it has become a hot topic. Former West Indies skipper Daren Sammy was one of the first cricketers to speak out on the issue. He did not shy away from sharing incidents where he was the subject of racism and was treated poorly. Chris Gayle followed suit.

Cricket boards like the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and England Cricket Board (ECB) supported and promoted the movement. In fact, slowly but surely, a lot of players, especially the ones from the Caribbean opened up. Current West Indies Test captain Jason Holder didn’t hold back either. In fact, former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding’s revelations on Sky Sports in the lead up to the first Test was a strong stance and that went viral around the cricketing world too.

England and West Indies are supporting the cause too. They have ‘Black Lives Matter’ embedded on their Test match jersey shirts (on the collar). All players even kneel down with the West Indian players wearing black gloves just before each Test match, to support the movement.

Also ReadWest Indies Cricketers to wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ emblem during Test series against England

Yet, it is one matter that’s always up for debate. After the players from the Caribbean, Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi led the charge for the South African cricketers.

South Africa and their cricketers are no stranger to racism. They have a history with Apartheid, colonialism and racism. Before 1970, South African teams in sport consisted only white people and they excluded people of colour from taking part at the top-most level. Cricket was no different. However, things have changed since they returned in 1992.

Ngidi admitted that this is one thing that he will definitely want the Proteas to address as a team. He wants them to take a stand, like the rest of the world.

As a nation, we have a past that is very difficult, with racial discrimination, so it’s definitely something we will be addressing as a team and if we are not, it’s something I will bring up. It’s something that we need to take very seriously and like the rest of the world is doing, make the stand. I feel we are not together so it’s hard to discuss but once we get back to playing that is definitely something we have to address as a team,” Ngidi was quoted saying in a virtual press conference after he won Cricket South Africa’s T20 cricketer of the year award.

The current and former South African cricketers slowly joined forces and echoed Ngidi’s opinion. They started voicing their views and taking a stance as well. As many as 30 former South African players came out in support of the BLM movement. They put their weight behind Ngidi and signed a statement which was published on ‘Sport24’. That read,

We commend Lungi Ngidi for supporting Black Lives Matter – and we’d like to add our support for it too. We note the criticism aimed at Lungi for expressing his views and we hope that Cricket South Africa (CSA), together with fellow cricketers – both present and past – will come out strongly in support of BLM. We note too that the most outspoken criticism directed at Ngidi has come via former players such as Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn, Brian McMillan and others, and we urge that their views be challenged.

The ones that opposed Ngidi’s support for the #BLM movement questioned as to why he didn’t talk about the death of the white farmers in the country and how they were being dragged and poorly treated. However, the likes of Makhaya Ntini, Herschelle Gibbs, Paul Adams, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell were among the others who signed in favour of the movement.

Alviro Petersen was also one of the 31 ex-cricketers to throw his weight behind Ngidi and support the BLM move. He was one of them who received a lot of hate and was called all sorts of things such as ‘quota player’ for supporting the move. The former Proteas opening batsman opened up on various instances of him facing racism as well. He put up a long thread on Twitter.

 

Former South African left-handed batsman Ashwell Prince also put up a long thread on Twitter, discussing the issue at hand. He felt the system is ‘broken’, not only in the society but also in sport.

 

 

Former South Africa batsman and captain Hashim Amla openly showed his stance in favour of the BLM movement. He had a long Instagram post supporting his stance. Faf du Plessis followed suit. Current South Africa cricketers Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi and Rassie van der Dussen took to Twitter to support the cause and show their stand with Ngidi. They expressed their views as well. The director of Cricket South Africa (CSA), Graeme Smith, also supported and stood by the movement.

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Waking up to 100s of messages on my whatsapp is a usual occurance especially with the introduction of whatsapp groups. Most of the time it's not serious stuff but I now know that being offline for a day(for whatever reason) can throw you into a storm unwittingly. Well… here's my (latest) weather report The Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign has relevance for everyone. Why? In the Islamic tradition it is understood that the first man, Adam (peace be upon him), was of dark skin henceforth all of humanity have deep roots to this proud heritage and should have zero qualms in being refered to as black. This make it even clearer for the person who believes in their black lineage that the imagined superiority of whites over blacks or blacks over whites, or one nationality over another, is simply delusional. Yes that's right- nothing but delusional. However many of us, including myself have bore the brunt of these delusions and have crazy stories to tell which is why it makes it even more admirable to see exceptional youngsters like @lungingidi doing his bit to represent us all. Thank you brother and all those who stand up for just causes in their own way-publically and privately. I speak for myself and those who share this belief that the end product of being racist is only self destruction and social change. There are oppressed people here in this country and the world over, of all colours and walks of life, cricket included. However the darker skinned people have had the worst of it. Some may convince themselves otherwise but you have to ask yourself – are those who know the same as those who dont know? Justice for all is the only true justice that will bring peace and anything else is sadly delusional. So why is Black Lives Matter relevant for us ?… because we are all black (to me anyway). I stand with all those who are oppressed. And I stand with @lungingidi (again). This pic is from his debut in January 2018. #bigmanbigsmile #istandwithlungi

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In the last couple of months I have realized that we must choose our battles. We are surrounded by many injustices in our country that require urgent attention and action to fix them. If we wait only for the ones that attack us personally, we will always live for “my way vs your way” and that way leads us nowhere. So I’ve remained silent, with the intent to listen, but not respond. Slowing down my point of view, but quicker to hear the pain of someone else. I knew that words would be lacking and that my understanding is not close to where it needs to be. I surrender my opinions and take the knee as an intercessor. I acknowledge that South Africa is still hugely divided by racism and it is my personal responsibility to do my best to emphasize, hear the stories, learn and then be part of the solution with my thoughts, words and actions I have gotten it wrong before. Good intentions were failed by a lack of perspective when I said on a platform that – I don’t see colour. In my ignorance I silenced the struggles of others by placing my own view on it. A race problem is a human race problem, if one part of the body hurts ,we all stop, we empathize, we get perspective, we learn and then we tend to the hurting part of the body. So I am saying that all lives don’t matter UNTIL black lives matter. I’m speaking up now, because if I wait to be perfect, I never will. I want to leave a legacy of empathy. The work needs to continue for the change to come and whether we agree or disagree, conversation is the vehicle for change.

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Another issue that Ashwell Prince highlights is the fact the journalists and media persons ringing or texting everyone who has supported the movement or taken a stance on the matter. They constantly want to know how that particular player has been affected by racism. Prince explains the issue in another long thread.