INDEPENDENT INQUIRY FINDING
SA under-19 cricket captain David Teeger cleared of any wrongdoing over Israel comments
A 44-page determination into alleged breaches of cricket’s code of conduct and the Constitution after comments in support of Israeli soldiers made by SA under-19 captain David Teeger has cleared the player of any wrongdoing.
An independent inquiry established by Cricket South Africa (CSA) to investigate remarks made by South African Under-19 cricket captain David Teeger has cleared the teenager of any breaches of the code or unconstitutional actions.
After receiving the Rising Star Award on 22 October at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards at the Sandton Convention Centre, Teeger (18), the head boy of King Edward VII School (KES), said the following:
“Yes, I’ve been [given] this award, and yes, I’m now the rising star, but the true rising stars are the young soldiers in Israel. And I’d like to dedicate it to the state of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora.”
Teeger’s words were reported by the South African Jewish Report on 26 October. This was flagged by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), which lodged an official complaint with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
Teeger had been appointed provisional SA Under-19 captain for next year’s age group World Cup.
CSA aimed to determine whether Teeger had breached its code of conduct, or that of the Central Gauteng Lions, where he plays his under-19 provincial cricket.
Respected advocate Wim Trengove SC was appointed to lead the inquiry. In a 44-page adjudicator’s determination, Trengove found Teeger had not breached any codes or acted unconstitutionally.
“The Constitutional Court has made the point that the right to freedom of expression does not protect hate speech, but emphasised that the expression of unpopular or even offensive beliefs does not constitute hate speech,” Trengove wrote.
It leaves Teeger free to play and be selected for SA Under-19, placing the emphasis back on CSA as to whether they will still select him.
CSA had not made any comment at the time of publishing.
In his determination, Trengove deals with Teeger’s comments both in the context of South Africa’s Constitution and in the context of CSA and the Lions’ codes of conduct.
In both cases, he found Teeger’s remarks to be lawful, even if they were offensive to some.
“An important and necessary corollary of freedom of expression is its requirement of tolerance. The Constitutional Court recognised in Islamic Unity that right to freedom of expression is not limited to statements that are moderate and inoffensive but also extends to those that offend, shock or disturb,” the determination reads.
“The Constitutional Court has since then frequently reiterated the importance of this corollary. It, for instance, did so in the Democratic Alliance case.
“The court again emphasised the importance of freedom of expression and continued as follows: ‘The corollary is tolerance. We have to put up with views we don’t like. That does not require approval. It means the public airing of disagreements. And it means refusing to silence unpopular views.’
“As Mogoeng CJ has recently explained: ‘Ours is a constitutional democracy that is designed to ensure that the voiceless are heard, and that even those of us who would, given a choice, have preferred not to entertain the views of the marginalised or the powerless minorities, listen.’ ”
No code breaches
In terms of whether Teeger breached cricket’s codes of conduct, three aspects fell within Trengove’s terms of reference:
- Whether Teeger should be charged with “unbecoming or detrimental conduct”;
- Whether “his statements were detrimental to the game of cricket”; and
- Whether his statements were “detrimental to relations between the competing teams”.
On all counts, Trengove found no grounds for pursuing Teeger.
“I am of the view that his comments did not constitute unbecoming or detrimental conduct.” Trengove determined.
“Mr Teeger expressed views which are very offensive to some. But they are also views shared by others. Even if they could be said to be those of a minority, they cannot be said to be ‘unbecoming or detrimental conduct’.
“There is nothing unbecoming or detrimental about an opinion expressed seriously and in good faith, however offensive it might be to some.”
Read the full determination here.
On the second point of whether Teeger’s statements were detrimental to the game of cricket, Trengove concluded the following:
“Can it be said to be detrimental to the game of cricket if a player publicly expresses a controversial opinion on a matter of high public interest?
“It seems to me to depend on the circumstances. If a cricketer, for instance, abuses a cricket platform to propagate a controversial political or social cause, his conduct may well be detrimental to the game of cricket.
“That may be so because his speech purports to associate and align the game of cricket with a divisive cause. But Mr Teeger’s speech was different.
“He did not make it on a cricket platform. He made it at the Jewish Achiever Awards evening, that is, at a meeting of the Jewish community.
“He identified with them by speaking of his experience as a religious young sportsman. He thanked his fellow Jews for the award they had bestowed upon him. He dedicated ‘this award’, that is, the award bestowed upon him by the Jewish community, to the state of Israel and its soldiers.
“He was a young Jewish man speaking to his fellow Jews. It was clear from his comments that he did not purport to speak for cricket, cricketers generally or indeed anybody else.
“His audience certainly understood that his statement was a very personal tribute and not one made on behalf of anybody else.
“Mr Teeger’s comments were certainly not detrimental to the game of cricket in the eyes of his audience. Should he have guarded against the risk that his comments might become public and that others might find them offensive? I think not.
“He was entitled to assume that everybody would understand that his comments were made in a conversation with his fellow Jews. He did not purport to speak on behalf of cricket or cricketers generally.
“Others might find his statements offensive. But they would understand that the constitutional right to freedom of expression requires of us to be tolerant even of views that we find offensive.
“A minority opinion, sincerely held and honestly expressed on an issue of high public interest, but entirely unrelated to cricket, is not detrimental to the game of cricket in the eyes of those who respect Mr Teeger’s right to freedom of expression.”
The CSA said on Thursday:
“CSA has now received, considered and accepted the Trengove Report which finds that Mr Teeger did not breach the CSA or Gauteng Lions codes of conduct. CSA is grateful to all parties for cooperating in dealing with the matter with urgency and in good faith. We are indebted to advocate Trengove for providing his report ahead of schedule. CSA considers the matter as now being closed and will make no further comment.” DM
This article was updated at 10.32am on 7 December 2023 to include a statement by Cricket South Africa.