South Africa Players Given Choice over Kneeling for BLM Support

South Africa Dean_Elgar_AP
South Africa batsman Dean Elgar (Photo | AP)

South Africa will allow players the freedom to choose their personal expression of solidarity for racial justice during the two-Test series with West Indies.

Following the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States last year, sports personalities and teams — including West Indies — chose to ‘take the knee’ in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has agitated for racial equality.

However, captain Dean Elgar said Wednesday his squad had arrived at a consensus following discussions with West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite and the management of both teams.

“It’s been quite a journey for our Proteas side with regards to this very topic,” Elgar said.

“We had a meeting with West Indies cricket — myself, Kraigg Brathwaite and the two respective team managers— and ultimately what happened was we approached them to give them our version going forward with regards to the campaign and obviously us supporting the campaign.

“And so we’ve given the players their right to perform whichever act or gesture they want to perform, and so if players are comfortable with taking the knee they may.

“If a player wants to do the previous gesture we had which is obviously raising the fist, they’re entitled to do that and if players aren’t comfortable just yet, they’ve obviously got to stand to attention so they can still respect the campaign that’s rolling out.”

West Indies were at the forefront of the BLM campaign in cricket when their tour of England last July coincided with the height of global protests over Floyd’s killing.

With support from the hosts, the Caribbean side knelt with fists raised for each of the three Tests, and also brandished an insignia of a black clenched fist on their jerseys.

They have continued with the expression of solidarity ever since.

South Africa, however, declined to take the knee when they faced England in their first series last November following the lockdown for COVID-19, with head coach Mark Boucher saying then the gesture was not something the team needed to “continue to show”.

South African players and officials had previously knelt and worn BLM armbands during a charity exhibition match in July.

Elgar said South Africa had made “a massive step” in their evolution on the issue.

“We’ve come a long way in regards to this very topic,” he pointed out.

“As mentioned, there are players who maybe aren’t comfortable with serving a gesture and ultimately we’ve come to the West Indies to respect their campaign.

“We’ve also come to the West Indies on the back of a lot of long chats within our squad and it’s maybe taken us a year to reach this point where we feel every player has their right, they have a sense of belonging inside this team, and we’ve come to the Caribbean not to disrespect the West Indies badge.

“I think we have made a massive step with regards to this process and tomorrow players will be able to share their gestures.”

The first Test bowls off at the Daren Sammy National Stadium today.

CMC

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