JOHANNESBURG – Cricket South Africa’s Interim Board has expressed its concern about the Proteas men’s team not showing sufficient support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The board outlined those concerns in a statement released late on Friday evening, in which it also mentioned that it was suspending the Social Justice and Nation building initiative that was the brainchild of a former director, Dr Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw.
The Proteas copped a lot of criticism for choosing not to kneel ahead of the T20 series against England last month. In so doing they were the only team among those who had resumed international cricket, not to make a public display of support for any social movement.
The New Zealand and West Indies teams have kneeled before the start of matches in the latter’s tour Down Under, while the Australian and Indian teams held a barefoot circle as a show of support for Aboriginal people.
Earlier this year the England and West Indies teams knelt before the start of their matches, as a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Athletes in other sports, most notably in the English Premier League have continued to kneel before starting matches.
When the Proteas chose not to kneel, they explained that it was a team decision, made exclusively by the players. “Our team decision on not taking the knee does not indicate that we do not care about racism, racial equality, or justice. Now, more than ever, we are committed to this work,” the players said in a statement released on November 25.
Now however, the interim board, which is working its way through a plethora of problems at Cricket SA as part of a mandate handed to it by Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa, has outlined how it hopes the players will think more about the implications of not kneeling.
The board’s chairman, retired constitutional court justice Zak Yacoob, has written a letter to both Graeme Smith, CSA’s Director of Cricket and Proteas head coach Mark Boucher, expressing his concerns.
“The Interim Board 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,’” the board said in its statement. “The Board feels Black Lives Matter has a particular meaning given South Africa’s apartheid past.”
Yacoob said he “could not compel the national team to act,” but wants the players to continue with their stated intention of engaging with the issue. JP Duminy, has publicly supported the Proteas’ stance, but said it was imperative that they are true to their word, that they would indeed, live the ethos that they have discussed privately.
The interim board also indicated that it was putting the Social Justice and Nation building initiative on hold for now. The initiative was established in July, amidst the storm of racism that blew through the sport, after Lungi Ngidi had said he wanted his Proteas teammates to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kula-Ameyaw drove that process, which included the creation of an ombudsman and the establishment of a Reconciliation Fund. Dumisa Ntsebeza was made ombudsman, while nine ‘ambassadors’ were also named. The SJN was supposed to start its work in September, but then Cricket SA became embroiled in drama related to the failure to release the Fundudzi forensic report.
Kula-Ameyaw then insulted one of CSA’s few remaining sponsors, Momentum, in a bizarre twitter rant, which undermined hers and the then board of directors credibility. She along with the rest of that board resigned in the final week of October, before Mthethwa established Yacoob’s interim board.
Part of the interim board’s mandate is to review all decisions taken by the previous board. It has already put on hold the transformation targets for the senior national teams, that were presented to Mthethwa earlier this year, a process that was also driven by Kula-Ameyaw, which left some inside CSA bemused as to what data she had used to justify the changes.