Hashim Amla is deeply missed in a playing context, but the South African continues to be one of the most powerful voices in cricket, evidenced most recently by his moving offering on the Palestine issue, writes RYAN VREDE.
Professional sport has a history of athletes speaking out on social justice issues. Recently, thousands used their platforms to share their view on George Floyd’s murder and support the subsequent uprising – in the guise of the Black Lives Matter movement – aimed at highlighting the racial inequality that exists in societies around the world.
In this context, every message of support matters, but only a handful of athletes have the clarity of thought and excellence in delivery to impact their audience in meaningful ways.
These athletes are rare and precious, because they not only understand their influence, but also the issue, and combine those to deliver messages designed that change pliable hearts and minds.
Hashim Amla is one such athlete. And he is ours. He is a national treasure, who’s voice, even two years after he last played internationally, has remained as powerful as a his cover drive once was.
A clutch of cricketers have spoken out about the situation in Palestine, which has dominated global news in the last week. None more powerfully than Amla.
Amla is a devout Muslim. This is one of the lenses he views the world through. However, Amla, in dealing with social justice issues, has prioritised his humanity over his religion.
On Instagram he wrote: ‘Some may find it surprising to learn that Nelson Mandela was branded a “terrorist” by the South African apartheid government. People actually believed it.
‘The method of providing constant exposure to slurs and insults of a people dehumanizes them in the minds. So much so that even logical caring neighbours and fellow humans will be indifferent to them.
Amazingly…the world now acknowledges Mr Mandela as the freedom fighter he was. Just in his cause. Compassionate in victory.
This quote of his should not shock us and neither is it prophetic. It is exactly what has been happening on the ground level for decades. It was clear to him then and surely, now more then ever- it is clear to the world.
We salute the bravery and courage of all PALESTINIANS.’
There are millions who of people who will seek to counter the content of Amla’s message, arguing that there are two sides to this seemingly never-ending and bloody story.
For these people, the philosophy of plurarity exists in almost every social justice issue, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to support the case of one party over the other. Indeed, there are even millions of vile humans who wonder out loud on social media what Floyd did to make a police officer suffocate him to death. These folks will always have a deep and unwavering commitment to their ignorance. They are lost.
For those with pliable hearts and minds, Amla’s message will land with the humility and grace he intended it to. It will certainly resonate with millions of South Africans, particularly those who suffered directly or indirectly at the hands of the apartheid government.
There are many who don’t understand why professional athletes weigh in on social justice issues. For them, these athletes should, to borrow the phrase made popular by conservative cable television host Laura Ingraham, ‘…shut up and dribble’.
Ingraham’s intended put down was aimed at basketball superstar LeBron James, who in 2018 criticised former President Donald Trump, a darling of the Fox network where Ingraham is employed.
Ingraham said what many of her ilk think but are too afraid to say. It is a ploy to dehumanise professional athletes and reduce them to what they do, ignoring who they are. I hope these athletes never shut up and dribble.
There are those who prefer to stay out of politics. Neither I nor anyone else needs to know the reasons for this deeply personal choice. In most cases, their silence should never be viewed as condoning or compliance of social injustice.
Then there is Amla, who speaks seldom, but when he does, has the voice of a giant.