South African rugby players in England take stand against Black Lives Matter
CAPE TOWN – Eight South African rugby players have caused controversy by refusing to show support for the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement ahead of an English Premiership game.
Various English Premiership teams have voiced their support for the movement, and a number of players took a knee before games as the competition resumed on Friday following a hiatus forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
When Harlequins took on Sale Sharks, however, 11 players from the Greater Manchester-based club remained standing, eight of whom were South African.
Faf de Klerk, Lood de Jager, twins Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez, their older brother Robert, Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen and club captain Jono Ross decided to remaini standing as a number of English players pledged their support for the movement.
Apart from former Bulls flanker Ross, all of the South Africans who refused to kneel are Springboks, while De Klerk and De Jager were members of the side that won last year’s Rugby World Cup under the captaincy of Siya Kolisi, who has voiced his support for Black Lives Matter.
Yes the message is right, the statements are right, and we've been told the T-shirts mean something, but we cannot ignore the connotations of this— Jack de Menezes (@JackdeMenezes) August 14, 2020
All 8 South Africans stand (with 3 others) and it does not look good at all. We can't just ignore historyhttps://t.co/g8fnTeyqQ3
“Yes, the message is right, the statements are right, and we’ve been told the T-shirts mean something, but we cannot ignore the connotations of this,” wrote English rugby writer Jack de Menezes.
“All 8 South Africans stand (with 3 others) and it does not look good at all. We can’t just ignore history.”
Twitter user Cheryl Roberts tweeted: “Look at this! South Africa’s men rugby players, playing for Sale Sharks in England refused to take a knee in support and acknowledgement of #BlackLivesMatter.”
“They wore the mandatory team t-shirt – about being against racism. Much later for these white privileged sports of SA,” she continued.
Look at this! South Africa’s men rugby players, playing for Sale Sharks in England, refused 2 take a knee in support and acknowledgement of #BlackLivesMatter. They wore the mandatory team T shirt - about being against racism. Much later for these white privileged sportsmen of SA! pic.twitter.com/ufkLX64Er0— cheryl roberts (@cherylroberts00) August 16, 2020
A number of South Africans, including Willem Petzer and well known rugby journalist Simon Borchardt supported the players’ decisions to refuse to show support for the anti-racism movement.
“My personal view: By wearing ‘Rugby Against Racism’ T-shirts, these SA players are clearly supporting the anti-racism campaign. If they don’t want to kneel (for whatever reason, including religious, I presume), that’s their decision. Each to their own,” Borchardt wrote on his Twitter page.
Petzer went on to call the eight, including Francois Venter who was the only player standing during a Worcester Warriors clash as “brave”.
“At Worcester [Warriors], the only South African on team, @Swys_Venter, also refused to kneel. This takes even more guts! At the Sale Sharks, it was easy for 8 South Africans to stand together against #BlackLivesMatter, but Francois was alone and he still stood strong,” said Petzer, a right-wing blogger who made headlines two years ago after a number of racist memes attributed to him were found online.
My personal view: By wearing 'Rugby Against Racism' T-shirts, these SA players are clearly supporting the anti-racism campaign. If they don't want to kneel (for whatever reason, including religious, I presume), that's their decision. Each to their own. https://t.co/9hFqpUIlIt— Simon Borchardt (@SimonBorchardt) August 16, 2020