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Swell of support for Lungi Ngidi and BLM as cricket’s return approaches

Swell of support for Lungi Ngidi and BLM as cricket’s return approaches
Lungi Ngidi of the Proteas during the 2020 International 2nd T20 Series match between South Africa and Australia at the St Georges Park,Port Elizabeth on 23 February 2020 (©Deryck Foster/BackpagePix)

Proteas’ fast bowler Lungi Ngidi’s call for a conversation about the Black Lives Matter campaign and by extension institutionalised racism in cricket has received a groundswell of support from fellow players.

This week 31 former cricket players and coaches sent out a statement voicing their support for Ngidi’s well-reasoned call to show support for the Black Lives Matter campaign when cricket resumes on Saturday. 

The Three Team Cup (3TC) tournament will kickstart cricket’s post-lockdown return-to-play programme at SuperSport Park in Centurion this weekend, but the unique format might be the least interesting thing to happen. 

Will players take a knee in support of a cause that has become a global movement to highlight the scourge of institutionalised racism in sports? Will there be some other form of public support and will all the players –  black, coloured and white – join in, whatever decision is taken? 

Over the past few weeks, black players in all sports have increasingly shared harrowing stories of experiencing blatant discrimination or casual racism. South African cricket is not immune with former players such as Ashwell Prince emotionally telling of the discrimination he encountered. 

A statement, signed by 31 former black players and coaches, including Prince, offered support for Ngidi’s message, especially after Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar, two former white Proteas, were critical of his message. 

“We commend Lungi Ngidi for supporting #BlackLivesMatter – and we’d like to add our support for it too. We note the criticism aimed at Lungi for expressing his views – and we hope that Cricket South Africa (CSA), together with fellow cricketers – both present and past – will come out strongly in support of #BLM,” the statement from the 31 players said. 

“We note too that the most outspoken criticism directed at Ngidi has come via former players such as Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn, Brian McMillan and others, and we urge that their views be challenged. We are not surprised at their comments. 

“Given South Africa’s well-known past, black cricketers have borne the brunt of subtle and overt racist behaviour for many years, including from some colleagues. Consequently, there is a need to understand how white privilege feeds into the perpetuation of these old attitudes and assumptions. 

“Our attitude, mistakenly, we now believe, has always been to say: ‘These are teething problems, and that these will be resolved if we are patient.’ But after almost three decades of cricket unity, the views expressed from one side of the racial divide are still very much part of our lives, and we now believe: ‘Teething problems’ cannot be allowed to continue for this long. 

“We see this as an opportunity for Cricket South Africa (CSA) to be unequivocal about its position and to make sure the problem is confronted, and we also invite our fellow white cricketers to join in this move to defend human dignity. 

“We represent, or have represented, South Africa on merit. Far too many white South Africans cannot accept that black cricketers have proved, time without end, that they are good enough to play at the highest level. 

“We live in a beautiful, diverse country, but where the playing fields are still far from level, and the transformation of cricket and people’s lives should be of paramount importance. 

“We are determined that future generations should not have to experience the pain we have had to endure, and that no South African cricketer should be discriminated against in the future. 

“Racism is a global problem and, as the great (former West Indies fast bowler) Michael Holding explained, we can no longer just keep on laughing, grimacing and moving on. We support Lungi Ngidi … we support #BLM and, in this week that we remember Nelson Mandela’s birthday, we believe that, with honesty and sincerity all-round, lingering racism in cricket and our beautiful  country can be tackled once and for all – for the sake of every child and every cricketer in South Africa.” 

One notable name missing from the statement was that of former Proteas batsman Hashim Amla. Comments on social media quickly became agitated that Amla had seemingly snubbed his fellow black players. But the great batsman fired back through a statement, where he showed his full support for Ngidi and the BLM movement. 

“The Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign has relevance for everyone. Why?” Amla asked.

“In the Islamic tradition it is understood that the first man, Adam (peace be upon him), was of dark skin henceforth all of humanity have deep roots to this proud heritage and should have zero qualms in being referred to as black.

“This makes it even clearer for the person who believes in their black lineage that the imagined superiority of whites over blacks or blacks over whites, or one nationality over another, is simply delusional. Yes, that’s right — nothing but delusional.

“However many of us, including myself have borne the brunt of these delusions and have crazy stories to tell which is why it makes it even more admirable to see exceptional youngsters like Lungi Ngidi doing his bit to represent us all. Thank you brother and all those who stand up for just causes in their own way-publicly and privately.

“I speak for myself and those who share this belief that the end product of being racist is only self-destruction and social change. There are oppressed people here in this country and the world over, of all colours and walks of life, cricket included. However, the darker skinned people have had the worst of it. Some may convince themselves otherwise but you have to ask yourself, are those who know the same as those who don’t know?

“Justice for all is the only true justice that will bring peace and anything else is sadly delusional. So why is Black Lives Matter relevant for us ?… because we are all black (to me anyway). I stand with all those who are oppressed. And I stand with Lungi Ngidi (again).”

On Saturday, Ngidi will not stand alone as the voice of Black Lives Matter in cricket. DM

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