By Anurag Hegde | Head of Sport
Earlier last week, South African wicket-keeper batter Quinton de Kock made headlines after he refused to take the knee before eventually withdrawing from South Africa’s clash against the West Indies on October 26 in the ongoing T20 World Cup.
On Monday, October 25, CSA (Cricket South Africa) had mandated that the entire squad had to take a unified approach in the fight against racism by taking the knee at the start of every game.
Previously, the South African players had adopted one of three gestures – taking the knee, raising a fist or standing to attention, in order to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Post South Africa’s opening game in the T20 World Cup against Australia, however, CSA said that it was important for the team to take a unified approach in their stand against racism.
“Concerns were raised that the different postures taken by team members in support of the BLM initiative created an unintended perception of disparity or lack of support for the initiative. After considering all relevant issues, including the position of the players, the Board felt that it was imperative for the team to be seen taking a united and consistent stand against racism, especially given South Africa’s history. Several other teams at the World Cup have adopted a consistent stance against the issue, and the Board felt it is time for all SA players to do the same.”
De Kock’s decision not to take a knee created controversy and the player’s commitment and support towards antiracism was questioned. Commenting after the game, South Africa’s captain Temba Bavuma said;
“As a team, we are surprised and taken aback by the news. Quinton is a big player for the team, not just with the bat, but from a senior point of view, so not having this at my disposal, as a captain, is obviously something I wasn’t looking forward to. In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He is a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision, we respect his convictions, and I know he will be standing behind the decision he has taken.”
De Kock’s withdrawal and his refusal to take a knee not only hindered his team’s chances against the West Indies but it also raised deeper questions about issues of racism in sport. The cricketing community expressed their disapproval of de Kock’s actions with some going as far labelling them ‘racist’.
In the aftermath of the game, however, in a public statement, de Kock clarified the reasoning behind his actions and assured that he was committed to standing against racism. De Kock apologised to his teammates and said that he “never ever wanted to make this a Quinton issue”.
Further, de Kock explained his actions by saying that he felt that his “rights were taken away” by the CSA board and that he didn’t understand why he had to “prove his feelings” towards antiracism with a gesture. The statement further read;
“I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.”
De Kock added that “being called a racist because of a misunderstanding” hurt him deeply. He ended by saying that he was “deeply sorry” to his teammates and to anybody else that was hurt by his actions and that he would “love nothing more than to play cricket” for his country again.