Johannesburg – The South African Cricketers Association would like to see the Proteas men’s side adopt a “uniform approach” to taking the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Association’s chief executive, Andrew Breetzke, was testifying at the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings on Wednesday and while raising the topic of diversity training for the national side, was asked about the majority of the team’s white players not kneeling.
On Tuesday, Cricket SA Board of Directors issued a directive demanding that the players kneel before matches at the T20 World Cup, which is currently taking place in the United Arab Emirates. Quinton de Kock refused to adhere to the directive and did not play in Tuesday’s match against the West Indies.
“My preference would be for a uniform approach to the taking of the knee in the Proteas team,” Breetzke said in response to an inquiry from SJN assistant, Sandile July. “This Proteas team has probably had more culture and diversity engagement than any other Proteas team has had. Specifically under the leadership of Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar, they have had the hard conversations.”
Breetzke said he had engaged with the two captains around diversity and players’ understanding of BLM, the understanding of taking the knee and understanding what it means to be in a team with diverse cultures and races. “It is the most diverse Proteas team that we have had,” he added.
The Proteas have struggled to present a unified front on the issue. In December last year, when they decided they would make a gesture by raising their fists, it was done very awkwardly. By the time they toured the West Indies – who’s team first chose to take a knee and continue to do so – a decision was taken that players were free to show support in their own way.
That led to all the black players kneeling, while only a couple of white players joined them in doing so. Most, including Elgar, continued to raise their right fists, while some; De Kock, Heinrich Klaasen and Anrich Nortje, stood with their hands behind their backs.
Although extensively reported on during the West Indies tour, Cricket SA made no comment about the players’s choice. That changed following the opening match of the World Cup, where again the majority of the white players – with Rassie van der Dussen the only one kneeling – chose to stand.
“The disappointment of where we stand now is that this issue should have been dealt with a while ago and not by the Board at an ICC event where it’s now front of house and is now a crisis,” said Breetzke, who had to end his testimony before the SJN on Wednesday so that he could attend a meeting about the matter.
“I will be critical of Cricket SA. This is not a new thing. It’s been around a while. I don’t think it should have come up at the World Cup.” .
“From a Saca perspective I would like to see the players have a uniform approach to taking the knee, but at the same time I am not going to instruct the players to take the knee.
“I’m hoping we can have a good solution to this. I feel sorry for Temba Bavuma. He has done incredibly good work in managing that team culture around diversity,” Breetzke added.