Cricket South Africa directs men’s team to collectively ‘take a knee’

- To remove 'unintended perception of disparity'

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Cricket South Africa’s (CSA’s) board has issued a directive to the national men’s team to collectively take a knee before the start of their remaining T20 World Cup matches.

The board recognised concerns 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”, and feel it is “imperative for the team to be seen taking a united and consistent stand against racism, especially given South Africa’s history.”.

Since the BLM movement re-emerged last year, South Africa have adopted varied stances towards supporting the anti-racism movement, but the national team has not taken a knee together.

The closest South Africa came to that was when all the players, support staff and administrators involved in the 3TC event last July, including director of cricket Graeme Smith, took a knee before play.

Thereafter, all South Africa’s players raised a fist before the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka last December, before the discussion re-emerged on their tour to the West Indies this winter.

It was agreed that team members would make their own decision about whether to take a knee, raise a fist or stand to attention during that series.

Notably, all the players of colour and some white players and members of staff, including coach Mark Boucher, Rassie van der Dussen and Kyle Verreynne, took a knee while other white players raised a fist and the rest stood to attention. Quinton de Kock, incidentally, did not observe any of the three options.

CSA’s board has steered away from directing the team until this point, but changed their mind after South Africa’s opening T20 World Cup match against Australia, where Australia took a knee but South Africa maintained their three options.

England, West Indies, India and Scotland have also taken a knee so far, while Pakistan held their hands to their hearts. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have not made any gestures yet but Bangladesh have previously taken a knee.

Players of South Africa huddle ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match between South Africa and West Indies at Dubai International Stadium on October 26, 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Michael Steele-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

“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,” a CSA statement read.

“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 SA’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.”

The CSA board directive comes at the same time as the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings are being conducted, aimed at investigating the extent of racial discrimination in South African cricket. Several former players have made allegations of exclusion and told stories of being othered including Ashwell Prince, Paul Adams, Omar Henry, Roger Telemachus and Loots Bosman.

The hearings are in their second phase and are listening to responses from those who have been incriminated by first phase testimony. Among them was former team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee, who criticised the national team for not taking a united stance in making a gesture in support of antiracism.

CSA will appear at the hearings on Thursday, in its first public appearance since the start of the proceedings. It has resolved not to comment on any SJN matters until after the hearings but appears to have responded to one of the issues raised, which is about the national team taking a knee.

“A commitment to overcoming racism is the glue that should unite, bind and strengthen us. Race should not be manipulated to amplify our weaknesses. Diversity can and should find expression in many facets of our daily lives, but not when it comes to taking a stand against racism,” CSA board chair Lawson Naidoo said.

The hearings will conclude on Friday and the ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza will issue a report to CSA by November 30. (ESPNcricinfo)

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