Sport

IT’S NOT JUST CRICKET

Proteas skipper Bavuma says De Kock has team’s support after refusing to take a knee

South African wicketkeeper-batsman and former captain Quinton de Kock. (Photo: Reuters / Siphiwe Sibeko)
By Craig Ray
27 Oct 2021 60

The Proteas put their T20 World Cup campaign back on track with an eight-wicket win over the West Indies in Dubai on Tuesday, but victory was soured by controversy.

The Proteas’ T20 World Cup campaign might be back on track after they beat the West Indies by eight wickets with 10 balls to spare, but there are some important discussions to come. 

Former South Africa captain Quinton de Kock refused to heed a directive from Cricket South Africa (CSA) to kneel as a sign of solidarity against racism before Tuesday’s match, and instead withdrew from the team. 

CSA issued the decree to the squad hours before the start of the Group 1 T20 World Cup clash in Dubai. Just before the start of the match, CSA issued a statement confirming the position. De Kock, in the interim, decided to stand down rather than take a knee under duress. 

His actions mobilised social media lynch mobs in minutes, even though all the facts were unclear at the time. It was left to captain Temba Bavuma to field awkward pre-match questions. Bavuma handled the difficult situation with dexterity, saying De Kock had withdrawn for “personal reasons”, which was accurate while being vague. 

But Bavuma also said that De Kock, as a teammate, still had the support of his peers. 

“Quinton is still one of the players, one of the boys, whatever support he needs, whatever shoulder he requires from his teammates, will be there for him,” Bavuma said in a media briefing after the match. “If there is a need for further conversations to be had, those will definitely happen.” 

CSA confirmed in a statement that De Kock had stood down in objection to the directive to kneel before the start of the match. It has become a universally adopted, but not necessarily a universally embraced, symbol of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. 

After the match, in which the West Indies posted 143 for eight and the Proteas reached 144 for two in the 19th over to win, Bavuma acknowledged that the team was shaken by De Kock’s stance. 

Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen of South Africa during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match against West Indies at Dubai International Stadium. The Proteas won the match by eight wickets. (Photo: Francois Nel / Getty Images)

“As a team, we are surprised and taken aback by the news. Quinton is a big player for the team, not just with the bat, but from a senior point of view, so not having this at my disposal, as a captain, is obviously something I wasn’t looking forward to,” Bavuma said after the match. 

“In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He is a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision, we respect his convictions, and I know he will be standing behind the decision he has taken.” 

Bavuma confirmed that the directive from CSA to take a knee reached the players at about 9am in Dubai, which was five hours before the match was due to start. 

“Before getting on the bus to travel to Dubai, that message was passed on to the players,” Bavuma said. “During the two-hour trip from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Quinton made his decision. I found out when I got to the changing room. 

“There wasn’t a great deal of time for us to thoroughly discuss this matter. Unfortunately, it was a matter of us digesting what we’ve been told and finding a way to move forward. 

“It was probably one of the toughest days I’ve had to deal with as a captain, as a leader of the team, for obvious reasons with the off-field matters. We had to get the job done. 

“There was still a game of cricket for our country. It was important that as much as everything was happening we found a way to get into the right mental space and take it home for our country.” 

CSA directive

In its first statement, CSA said: “The CSA Board on Monday evening unanimously agreed to issue a directive requiring all Proteas players to adopt a consistent and united stance against racism by ‘taking the knee’ prior to the start of their remaining World Cup matches. 

“Concerns were raised that the different postures taken by team members in support of the BLM initiative created an unintended perception of disparity or lack of support for the initiative.

“After considering all relevant issues, including the position of the players, the Board felt that it was imperative for the team to be seen taking a united and consistent stand against racism, especially given South Africa’s history. 

“Several other teams at the World Cup have adopted a consistent stance against the issue, and the Board felt it is time for all SA players to do the same.” 

CSA might pay De Kock’s salary, but whether their jurisdiction stretches as far as forcing him, or other players to make a gesture in support of a social or political cause, is unlikely to hold up if this matter ever reaches court. 

That De Kock made a conscious decision against taking the knee in previous matches was one thing, that he refused to be forced to do it, is another. 

While he is being vilified in the court of public opinion, De Kock might have a case in a labour court. CSA’s directive is not enshrined in any constitution. 

CSA’s lack of leadership

De Kock has yet to speak out on the issue and it is understood he might make a statement in the coming days. Until then, Bavuma and coach Mark Boucher have to manage a difficult situation leading up to their next match against Sri Lanka. It’s a situation that has been festering for many months without decisive leadership from CSA. 

The fact that the governing body chose to make a decree such as this on the eve of a crunch World Cup match underlines how chaotic the CSA leadership has been in the past two years. This matter should have been decisively dealt with months ago.

“We have a few days before the next game and I think those days will be tough for the group,” Bavuma said. 

Fast bowler Anrich Nortje of the Proteas in action against the West Indies in their 2021 ICC T20 World Cup match at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday. (Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris / Gallo Images)

“Guys who want to know in terms of his decision will use that time to find out more. Quinton is an adult. He made his decision. You have to respect it, whether you agree with it or not. 

“As much as you have the choice to decide what you want to do, you can’t escape the consequences of the choices and decisions we make. If there are people out there who think certain people need more clarity, then the fans, the media, it’s best that you ask those guys directly. 

“It becomes blurry when you are asking me about other guys. If you are really wanting to get the clarity that you seem to want, you should probably ask those individuals themselves.” 

Bavuma eloquently encapsulated the complexity of forcing players from a range of backgrounds to make a gesture for a cause they either don’t fully grasp or fully support. 

“I don’t think it is as simple as just taking a knee,” Bavuma said. “We have to appreciate that we live in a country like South Africa that has its own past, that is diverse in its views, diverse in the way people see things, and their backgrounds and decisions that we take, things that we support, are based on our own convictions. 

“As much as we are a team, we wear the same shirt, we play for the same badge, outside of that we still live our own lives and those lives are different by the very nature that we live in South Africa.

“Over the last while, I have learnt to appreciate that a lot more, try to widen your own perspective as an individual and not expect people to see things the way you see things. My beliefs, the way that I see things, is shaped by my own background, and so is the other person’s. 

“If there is a disagreement in terms of beliefs, in terms of views, that’s why we have those hard conversations. Through those conversations we will be able to get the comfort to accept the other person’s decision. I can’t force anyone to see things the way I do, neither can they force me to.” 

CSA double down

The use of the word “force” was telling. Bavuma stated clearly he couldn’t force someone to see things the way he did. He didn’t go as far as saying that the CSA decree to force players to take a knee was wrong, but his comments could be interpreted that way. 

Regardless, a defiant CSA doubled down on its stance later in the day 

“All players had been required, in line with a directive of the CSA board on Monday evening, to ‘take the knee’ in a united and consistent stance against racism,” a second statement said.

“This is also the global gesture against racism that has been adopted by sportspeople across sporting codes because they recognise the power of sport to bring people together.  

“After considering all relevant issues, including the freedom of choice of players, the board had made it clear it was imperative for the team to be seen taking a stand against racism, especially given SA’s history. 

“The board’s view was that while diversity can and should find expression in many facets of daily lives, this did not apply when it came to taking a stand against racism. 

“The board will await a further report from team management before deciding on the next steps. All players are expected to follow this directive for the remaining games of the World Cup.”

Bavuma was unsure if De Kock was still eligible for the team under the circumstances and was also unsure if a replacement could be called, should De Kock be sacked by CSA, or withdraw from the tournament. 

“I don’t know how far it is going to develop. The decision he has taken is only today so I can only speak about what has happened today,” Bavuma said. 

“It wouldn’t be my decision whether to replace Quinton or get a substitute. That will most probably be the coach and the selectors.” DM

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All Comments 60

  • I think the writer is putting words in the skipper’s mouth. The skipper is simply showing leadership by handling the situation as tactfully as he can.

    I can understand one being unhappy about being forced to take a particular stand with regard to a moral issue, but why would one be so vehemently opposed to taking such a stand? Think of the goodwill de Kock could have generated among South Africans of all races – except among racists of course – if he had joined the rest of his teammates in a show of solidarity.

    • de Kock may have ‘generated goodwill’ (In your opinion), but he would have lost a lot of self respect. I for one salute him for taking a stand against the imbeciles at CSA who are too confused to organise a p…-up in a brewery.

      • Don’t forget de Kock refused to take the knee even when it was optional. What possible principle was he standing up for then that was more important than a simple gesture against racism?

        The notion that politics and sport don’t mix was conjured up by apologists for Apartheid during the sports boycott. It is a nonsensical notion. Every aspect of one’s life is governed by politics. The majority of South Africans are painfully aware of this.

        • “Every aspect of one’s life is governed by politics. The majority of South Africans are painfully aware of this.” You have perfectly, and I guess unintentionally, worded South Africa’s current dilemma. How much better of would the average South African be off today was in not for incompetent, lying, cheating, stealing politicians? Yet you think politics can be a vehicle for morality and social cohesion?

    • This view is bizarre in my opinion.

      “Taking the knee” can be done by racists and non-racists alike. I would think that’s obvious.

      The act is meaningless when it is compulsory.

    • You really need to consider that people have legitimate reasons to not take the knee. Personally, I would be happy to. You should also note that De Kock is not being branded a rebel, or bad team mate, but a racist. That’s where it’s at: if you don’t see things my way, you’re a racist. That sir, is he start of oppression.

    • Social media, by its nature, is used opportunistically to promote a cause or elevate a position (BLM or any other) to a point where the targeted party is pressured to capitulate on a public platform. Drivers on social media then give themselves a pat on the back and award themselves the moral high ground. What they find hard to accept is when someone does not submit completely to their directives. Take the term “taking the knee” – a staple phrase in the BLM advance. To me the gesture implies weakness, loss of identity and hopelessness, NOT solidarity or support. So why not allow an individual to acknowledge the BLM in a way which they feel is dignified? The answer is because BLM want submission rather than support. Everyone is entitled to dignity and self respect and by taking these from others to add to their own will not end racism. Everything in life is a compromise – let’s get on with it, find a way, and work together rather than against each other.

  • Where does it end? As well as “taking a knee” as a gesture against racism, should we also do so for sexism, religious intolerance, LBGT intolerance; and come to think of it perhaps we should also throw in intolerance to less than perfect weight/height absolute size and proportionality? Take a knee also against fascism, communism, government incompetence/theft/corruption…

    We could spend the entire day trying to bend the World according to what we – sports administrators – believe the ideal World should be.

    Or we could just get on with what we are supposed to do – and let the game begin. Taking a knee may have had meaning when it first was made by an individual in an American grid-iron game, but it has morphed into a mindless event that seemingly has no value other than virtue-signalling by English soccer teams intent on buffing up their PR.

    • Spot on Jon. Directives coming from CSA who are probably the most useless bunch of administrators to ever hold office. How exactly does this taking a knee help a world that’s literally gone mad. Let’s prioritise matters and worry about gender violence, assassinations, corruption, lack of education, unemployment……the list is endless.

      • Exactly, so many people in this country have absolutely nothing but this becomes a major issue to take attention away from what needs to be done. Given the utter uselessness of the politicians that are supposed to be solving those problems then no wonder they want to distract us.

    • Agree. There are a lot of important human rights issues that we could ask South African sports teams to take a knee for – so where does it stop. One close to my heart is the scourge of female genital mutilation in Africa. Hmmm – so maybe CSA could lead the way in dealing with those grotesque goings on in our own backyard.

    • Exactly John. That whole issue in US is way past us. Quinton will have his reasons …I suspect one of them is showing some pushback against being continually compromised and pushed around by a bunch of idiots at the top of CSA.

  • Sport should be just that, sport. Jon Quirk below illustrates how sport is not a forum for airing the multitude of social ills we face. CSA is misguided and constitutionally out of line, no matter how important it is to highlight the existence of prejudices.

  • Black Lives Matter is a selective racially based protest against the killing of blacks by American police. It is not a protest against racism. If you refuse to “take the knee” it does not mean you are not against racism – it means you do not take the view that only black lives matter. You have the view that ALL lives matter. To report De Kock’s stance as refusing “to kneel as a sign of solidarity against racism” is misleading and disingenuous.
    Many sportsmen and women around the globe refuse to take the knee because of the inherent BLM’s racist selectivity inferring only black lives matter.

  • Unless the players themselves decide to make such a statement and take a specific position, the gesture is empty and devoid of meaning. Let’s not forget that ALL boards of State-associated organs are compromised, by virtue of cadre-deployment. For CSA with its history of maladministration (and more) to suddenly take this moral position is questionable at the very least. As usual, public opinion is quick on the draw, but often misses what it aims for. Things are rarely what they seem to be. Is Quinton a racist? I doubt it. His team is behind him, after all.

  • Here’s the thing:
    1) Black lived don’t matter, because if they did then black Americans would not just be conscious of black lives lost senselessly all over Africa but they would do something about it;
    2) Most Christians reserve kneeling only for God, not for other causes;
    3) Why is CSA putting pressure on SA sportspeople to do this in the first place? Let them show their concerns for causes (of which the world has many) in their own way and stop politicizing sport.
    4) If De Kock is coloured, and therefore designated black in SA, then why is this an issue?
    5) The real loser is cricket and freedom of speech and expression.

    • I didn’t know about point 3. That does help put things into perspective for me. I know when the rugby players were being encouraged to take a knee Faf called Rassie to discuss matters in depth because he was uncomfortable with it. That always struck me as strange since it felt unFaf like but this helps.

      I didn’t think that QDK was coloured and can’t find any evidence for that. Could you help?

  • Remember the stance on the winners of the IPL. Ngidi was congratulated b y the C SA for merely being in the squad that won the tournament.. Faf DuPlessis -man of the match in the winning team was initially ignored. Does this not show that the racists here are the CSA. Look at the commision appointed by CSA -sitting at the moment- it seems its existance is purely to hound white players.

  • I fully supporting taking the knee. It has been a tremendously powerful message. I think de Kock should take the knee. But for CSA to issue these rules hours before the start is just stupid. Can we get some adults in the room to have this discussed, not shouted about, before it becomes an unnecessary commotion and provocation that South Africa just doesn’t need. Bavuma is making sense. Get a mediator in there to sort this out NOW.

    • Is it really a powerful message when it is compulsory?

      Kneeling is no guarantee that you are not a racist. Not kneeling in no way means that you are a racist.

      So, how is it powerful?

  • Teams are tricky especially at high levels. You have no control over who you get to call teammates as hopefully everyone is chosen on merit. To be successful over long periods of times, however, the team needs to have clear goals and objectives with general respect for each other.

    In this case it is a question of respecting each others opinions but also each others history. QdK has every right to walk away but it isn’t neccesarily a personal choice when you are part of a team.

    What would have happened if he took the field and chose not to kneel? I could commend him for walking away but without knowing why, it is difficult for me to do so. The longer he remains silent the longer he leaves the rest of the team to deal with the aftermath meaning that he has effectively left the team twice.

    From a personal perspective I know how difficult it is to stand alone without support of those around you. For people to say in words or actions that they don’t support your person or disregard your struggle. It’s not fun to be told that you are not worthy or less than. But you can’t change people’s minds by giving in. You can by letting them in and explaining how you experience things and how you would like that to change. That goes for CSA, the Proteas- past, present and future, all the unknowing bullies, deliberate villains, the recipients of such treatment and those that see it happening.

    Its not about telling, it’s about explaining and actually unifying.

  • Like any sensible person I abhor the senseless murder of anyone. I also have a serious aversion to hypocrisy.
    At the time that the BLM movement started most of the world was under the first Covid lockdown. Africans were being senselessly killed by African police and security forces for breaching that lockdown. I raised the obvious question to a black friend of mine as to how the BLM movement could garner such support when it overlooked the simple fact that substantially more Black people were being killed by Blacks worldwide than by Whites and should the BLM not also acknowledge this fact and look at ways to tackle the problem. His response was simple- “It is all right for Blacks to kill Blacks but Whites must not kill Blacks”. Horrifying but with a large element of truth.
    In that “truth”is the hypocrisy of the BLM movement and until it acknowledges the situation and tries to do something about it anyone has the personal right to not take the knee or does the PC movement now control the world’s narrative and do we live in a world where there is only one opinion and personal rights are out the window?

  • The CSA board is the main problem cricket has to endure in SA. They did something similar at a previous world cup intervening in the selections at the last minute and causing controversy, disharmony, distractions and probably the failure of the whole team. Their interference is not about sport – it is political, impulsive, last-minute and stupid.

  • One has to wonder how well CSA thought this through before laying down the law to players a few hours before the team took the field. No debate, no discussion but this is what you’ll do. I think Quintin has every right to object to CSA’s attitude with respect to this matter and to label him as racist is an indication of the lack of understanding of the accusers.

  • Themba Bavuma handled the situation very well. I am totally for Black Lives Matter but, if someone forced me to take the knee, I might also refuse. Who knows what lived experience Quinton de Kock has for not doing it – it may be as simple as “All lives matter”

  • Temba Bavuma has quietly been a very impressive leader since he became captain. How he reacted under the quite extreme circumstances created by the louts at CSA yesterday has made me appreciate this young leaders grasp of reality even more! He shows us that we do have people in our land that are thoughtful, capable and courageous.
    CSA should be disbanded and cricket should be run by a sports management company on a professional basis from now on.
    QDK is exactly what Temba said, a man in his own right and as far as I know, freedom of speech and expression is still an individuals right. He has not done any wrong, he is entitled to his opinion and rightfully stood for his own opinion. To brand him a racist is extremely short sighted.

  • My personal objection against the knee symbol is that it is a manifestation of the US-ification of so much of western society, its languages and symbols. I do not, for example, clench my hand over my heart when singing our national anthem or watching our flag being lowered or raised, a practice that seems to have become universal in the USA around about 9/11 and has since been adopted across the world. It is a patriotic necessity there but, to me, it is simply an emotional showpiece that I, as a patriotic but private individual, do not need to help define my life or the way that others see me. The same goes for the knee. I prefer to stand with head bowed and eyes closed. That show of support for my nation or for an excellent cause, should be enough. Those who wish to kneel can do so and I will not object to their way of showing respect, although I cringe at the importation of another nation’s cultural symbols.

    • I would like Craig Ray to include a time-stamped photograph (perhaps with a newspaper headline date proof) of him taking the knee with every article he posts on the Daily Maverick.

      He has to do it with every article, in public. You up for that, Craig?

      I would also like to see coverage of all sports commentators taking the knee. At every sporting event.

      This is pathetic. I thought I’d left mandatory salutes behind when I left ‘national service’.

      Has anyone here heard of Fascism? The mandatory Nazi salute?

      I really fear a society where we are commpelled to make political or religious gestures in order to take part in society.

      Shame on everyone who supports this. Beware of what you seek.

  • I would like Craig Ray to include a time-stamped photograph (perhaps with a newspaper headline date proof) of him taking the knee with every article he posts on the Daily Maverick.

    He has to do it with every article, in public. You up for that, Craig?

    I would also like to see coverage of all sports commentators taking the knee. At every sporting event.

    This is pathetic. I thought I’d left mandatory salutes behind when I left ‘national service’.

    Has anyone here heard of Fascism? The mandatory Nazi salute?

    I really fear a society where we are compelled to make political or religious gestures in order to take part in society.

    Shame on everyone who supports this. Beware of what you seek.

  • I am sure that woke pundits like Craig Ray and Firdose Moonda will willingly take the knee before any public engagement – in Craig’s case stumbling from his bed to his typewriter.

    In Firdose Moonda’s case I have no idea.

    The point is that woke journalists should walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

    I would like to see the whole of DM journalists taking the knee, before tomorrow’s new articles. It won’t happen cos the editor comes from a former totalitarian regime.

    I am upset by the proletariat commentary on this piece.

    Some women came close with her comment that she supported the knee taking but she wanted further support for GBV in Afghanistan. Kudos – that will go down like a lead balloon in a tournament including Afghanistan. But what did she have in mind? Take a knee and an elbow?

    Throw in genital mutation as another commenter suggested. Where are we then. A knee and two elbows?

    Perhaps crippled?

  • Lets take the knee for 20,000 murders a year in South Africa ,for countless rapes and child abuse ,for ongoing corruption and criminality. More than enough to keep us on our knees for centuries

  • I think that the narrative being spread by so many that anyone who doesn’t ‘take the knee’ must be a racist is unfortunate and misleading. I subscribe to the view expressed by Morgan Freeman some time ago when asked what should be done to stamp out racism – his succinct response was “stop talking about it”. I believe that the same principle applies here. In my view gestures like ‘taking the knee’ perpetuate rather than serve to quell polarisation between black and white, and I am certain that there are a great number of black people who are embarrassed by BLM and who regard themselves as human beings, period. Perhaps Quinton takes this view, but it looks as if he has already been hung and quartered in the kangaroo court of public opinion. It’s quite sad really. Remember how close Eben Etzebeth was to being pulled away from the 2019 World Cup based on what turned out to be unsubstantiated allegations of racism. When they turned out to be unfounded the whole debacle died a quiet death. The same applies to Ashwin Willemse (remember him?). Messrs Botha and Mallett were unfairly and instantly vilified after Willemse walked out of studio, but when it transpired that there was no substance to Willemse’s allegations of racism, the whole thing also died a quiet death. Watch this mess the CSA has created also get swept under the carpet.

  • How much more stupid can we bear in this country. Politics have destroyed almost everything, but it seems they’re intent on destroying all, 100%.