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Trying to defend the indefensible: The silence after SJN testimony is deafening

Mark Keohane.

Mark Keohane.

Published Aug 20, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - AMONG the most powerful and disturbing testimonies at the Social Justice and Nation Building Project (SJN) hearings was that of former Proteas cricketer Paul Adams, who revealed that he was racially discriminated against by former South African teammates, including the current coach Mark Boucher.

“I was called brown s*** when I was playing. It often used to be a song when we won a game and we were in fines meetings. They would sing, ‘brown s*** in the ring, tra la la la laa',” Adams said.

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Adams said he continued to take it because he was a racial minority in the team and it was a means of acceptance and survival.

“They wouldn't call a white player, ‘white s***', or anything like that, it was ‘brown s***'.”

Adams said it should never have happened, and added that “maybe he (Boucher) should come and say sorry”.

This testimony was nearly a month ago and submissions for SJN ended on Thursday, August 19.

There have been media reports of individuals having approached the commission for an extension, and my understanding is these are white individuals who have been named as being at the forefront of perpetuating racial prejudice through their actions.

There has been very little else reported on Adams and there has been silence from those, like Boucher, who have publicly been named during player testimony.

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The purpose of the SJN is about identification, awareness, reflection, introspection and, hopefully, healing.

To quote Adams: “It should never have happened. It is something that should not be brushed under the carpet. We should air it. If we want our teams within Cricket SA to have the right ethics, the right mentality, the right respect for one another, we should air these things.”

It was about education, said Adams, to ensure that all races were treated with respect. The SJN was about working toward a better future, but the silence, post Adams's testimony, is as disturbing as his testimony.

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Surely Boucher, if the intent was there, could have made a greater effort to speak to Adams personally, to acknowledge his regret for causing Adams such hurt, to accept that he did cause Adams hurt and to address the SJN, as a matter of urgency, to publicly apologise to Adams and to South Africans for his actions.

ALSO READ: SJN Hearings: Paul Adams scared of being victimised

The argument that Boucher did not mean it to be racially offensive has no substance. It is offensive.

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Boucher is also not just a former teammate: he is the Proteas' national coach and he has a responsibility toward much more himself.

I have been very surprised at how low key the reporting has been on Boucher in the mainstream media. Equally at how conveniently a month has passed without any pressure being put on him to respond.

The talk was Boucher had responded through his legal team. I sincerely hope that there isn't accuracy to this because that would imply that attack will be Boucher's defence, when there is no defence needed, but just an acknowledgement and an apology.

CSA, on Wednesday, confirmed that the Office of the Transformation Ombudsman had received requests from various parties to extend the deadline that has been set to allow for proper preparedness for responses.

That, in itself, isn't encouraging, because this isn't about trying to defend the indefensible. This is about listening, for once, to those players' truth about how they experienced racial prejudice, so that the next generation doesn't have to.

This isn't about a defence to dispute what those players were feeling.

It is about listening to these players' testimonies, and saying sorry.

If the national cricket coach still thinks calling someone “brown s**t” wasn't wrong, then why the hell is he still in charge of the team?

Boucher's silence this past month on the matter would indicate he feels he has done nothing wrong. And that, Cricket South Africa, is a problem.

*Mark Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media Sport

@mark_keohane

IOLSport

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