• Interim board cranks up BLM pressure

    Cricket South Africa’s interim board has urged the Proteas to carefully consider their decision not to kneel in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

    In late November, Proteas coach Mark Boucher said they had taken a ‘team decision’ not to kneel during the England series. Kagiso Rabada was asked about the decision soon after and seemed uncomfortable talking about it.

    He tried to reaffirm his commitment to BLM, but when Rassie van der Dussen was pressed on it a couple of days later, CSA’s media manager abruptly stopped that line of questioning, saying they have ‘drawn a line under the issue’.

    The stance drew widespread media and public criticism, given that it was the first opportunity the Proteas had to show solidarity with the movement. The Proteas argued that they have shifted their attention to gender-based violence, while trying to placate criticism by saying they are mindful of finding ways to support the BLM movement.

    CSA interim board has now weighed in on the issue and made it clear, through a statement, that they don’t fully support the team’s stance.

    The statement read: ‘The Interim Board of Cricket South Africa [CSA] met on Saturday, 12 December to prioritise the issues it needs to act on in the remaining very short two months of its term in order to fulfil the nine-point mandate given to it by Minister Nathi Mthethwa. Among the matters discussed were transformation, Black Lives Matter and the Social Justice and Nation-Building [SJN] initiative launched by CSA in August this year.

    ‘The Proteas team issued its press statement on 25 November stating that it would not be taking the knee during the recent England series, but “together, we are exploring [in a continuing way] the significance of taking the knee and a raised fist”. Interim Board chairperson Judge Zak Yacoob expressed concern about the implications of this statement. The IB believes that the subsequent public and media criticism has justified these concerns.

    ‘The chairperson noted in a letter to Director of Cricket Graeme Smith and Coach Mark Boucher on the same day as the players’ statement that while the IB respected the  constitutional right of individuals to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution, the IB felt that “we should embrace every aspect of our constitution” fully as South Africans and show “the world that all of us are together in opposing racism at every turn”.

    ‘In its discussion this weekend, the IB reaffirmed the significance of the current world-wide movement against systemic racism in sport, noting that it was not a sectarian political cause but a broad social justice campaign garnering wide support from athletes all over the world, bringing together a coalition of support across national, racial, class, religious and generational lines. The IB feels Black Lives Matter has a particular meaning given South Africa’s apartheid past. Therefore, the IB has confirmed CSA’s support for BLM – first expressed on 9 July in the aftermath of the letter sent to CSA by 36 former national players and senior coaches.’

    The statement continued: ‘Judge Yacoob explained that while the IB could not compel the national team to act, it would encourage the Proteas to continue with their stated intention of engaging with this issue. He said it was in the national interest that our sports representatives reflected the constitutional imperatives for South Africans to address lingering discrimination, indignities and exclusions.

    ‘Finally, the chairperson noted that while the IB would remain engaged with this issue, it had also applied its mind to the SJN initiative and subsequently placed it on hold, pending further consideration which includes obtaining legal opinion from legal counsel.’

    It now remains to be seen whether the Proteas will reconsider their stance on this matter. The Test series against Sri Lanka starts on 26 December.

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    Ryan Vrede