Proteas’ reasons for not kneeling for ’Black Lives Matter’ a cop out
TO take a knee or to not take a knee? A question that the Proteas team has answered, but it seems not to everyone’s satisfaction.
Maybe that question needs to be revised – is taking a knee in a fairly nondescript match enough of a symbolic gesture?
Should the Proteas, as the most watched cricket team in the country, playing their first match in eight months and also their first since the Black Lives Matter social movement penetrated the public’s consciousness, not kneel before the first ball is bowled against England?
The national men’s team head coach Mark Boucher said last week that the players would not be kneeling in recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement for the matches against England.
In expanding on the reasons why, he pointed out that he’d spoken to Lungi Ngidi – whose initial comments in July about the Proteas team having a discussion around BLM drew attention to deep racial divisions in South African cricket – who said he was happy the players had done enough at the 3TC match.
On that occasion all the players who participated along with Cricket SA’s senior officials did kneel.
The players, Boucher added, felt it was time to move beyond symbolic gestures and to live that which they’d spoken about at their “culture camp” in Skukuza in August.
In addition Boucher pointed out that the players would be wearing black armbands to show solidarity with gender-based violence initiatives and as recognition for the more than 20 000 deaths that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
Kagiso Rabada said it was a team decision, one he was happy to abide by, but he couldn’t explain how that decision had been reached. Hardly a resounding endorsement. He reiterated that he supported Black Lives Matter and what it stood for and always would.
By Tuesday the Proteas reckoned they’d handled and explained themselves well enough. When Rassie van der Dussen was asked his opinion, he was stopped by the team’s media manager, who said the team’s stance had been explained and it was time to move on.
Was it though? Not really to be fair. The Proteas haven’t been clear on the reasons why in their first series as a team they wouldn’t be showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Moreover if they are, as they imply, moving from symbolic gesture to real change, then surely that’s something the players should all confidently and comfortably be able to speak to without needing the media manager to step in.
By various accounts, the tone of their internal discussions at Skukuza helped open many eyes and bred an understanding among each other about being vulnerable and showing empathy. It is now through tangible deeds rather than symbolic gestures that they wish to show their support for BLM and how it should lead to change.
It’s a noble stance, but so is taking a knee, particularly given it’s the first set of matches the national team has played in eight months.
As one of the most prominent sports brands in the country, there is still a very pressing need for them to make that symbolic gesture about black people’s lives mattering.
Saying they wouldn’t by seemingly saying they had to move it aside to accommodate standing up for gender-based violence is at best a cop out and at worst a dereliction of their positions as role models. They can’t choose one over the other, they should be highlighting both.