JOHANNESBURG – Paul Adams said sharing accounts of racism – like him being called a ‘brown shit’ by former South African teammates including Mark Boucher – was not being done to destroy Cricket South Africa, but to help the organisation to grow.
Adams testified before the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings on Thursday about the discrimination he’s endured throughout his career, including how teammates had a song saved for post-match celebrations referring to him as ‘brown shit’.
“It’s one that stayed with me,” Adams told the commission. “My now wife, back then my girlfriend, she would always make a comment to me about it. She (asked): ‘Why are they talking to you like that?’ ‘Why would they call you that name?’ ‘It’s not right.’ I would just shrug it off.”
“I was called ‘brown shit,’ and it often happened in fines meetings after we won a game, and there was a song that was sung; ‘brown shit in the ring tra-la-la-la.’ When you are playing for your country, you’re in that victory (moment), you don’t make sense of it, you just go along with it, brush it off, but it’s actually blatant racism,” said Adams.
A left-arm wrist spinner in a playing career that spanned 13 years, Adams gained household recognition when he was selected for the national team a month shy of his 19th birthday in December 1995, to face England. He went on to play 45 Tests and 24 One-Day Internationals, but told the commission he should have played many more, particularly in the limited overs formats.
Adams initially didn’t mention Boucher’s name when recounting the story about the team song, with one of the commissioners, Adv Fumisa Ngqele, asking if Adams had ever confronted the now Proteas head coach about it. “I never addressed it with him. Mark was just one of the guys (who called me that)... it only came back to me afterwards. I was caught up in the fun of being along in the team and not (wanting) to ruffle any feathers. For me, when I thought about it, and my wife kept telling me, ‘why do they call you that?’ then I realised it wasn’t right.”
“They wouldn’t call a white player, ‘white shit,’ or anything like that, it was ‘brown shit.’”
Cricket SA has stated that it would not comment on testimony at the hearings, even if current employees are mentioned. In a statement on July 8, Cricket SA said that “where allegations are made against individuals or organisations, they will be given a proper opportunity to respond to these in due course.”
The responses would take place before the ombudsman, Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza, submitted his report to the Board of Directors at the end of September. The new chairman of the Board, Lawson Naidoo, said at the start of the hearings, that “this approach will protect the independence, autonomy and integrity of this process.”
Adams said the SJN project, established last year by Cricket SA after a call by Lungi Ngidi for the Proteas to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, exposed an undercurrent of racism within South African cricket, was a crucial exercise that South African cricket desperately required.
“I’m just highlighting that it should never happen and if we take this forward in the right way, we will have a lot more respect for each other. Maybe he (Boucher) should come and say sorry. Maybe that is all that needs to happen. 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.”
The SJN hearings will continue on Friday, with another former Proteas player, Loots Bosman, scheduled to testify.