De Kock apologises, says will take the knee in future
Much to the relief of South Africa in the midst of their T20 World Cup campaign, the storm surrounding wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock’s refusal to take a knee for the game against West Indies has been brought to an amicable end. In a statement released by Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Thursday, the 28-year-old has apologised for his actions and said that he will take the knee for the remainder of the tournament to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. It means that de Kock will be available for selection for their next game against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
“I would like to start by saying sorry to my teammates and the fans back home. I never ever wanted to make this an issue (about myself). I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If I taking a knee helps to educate others and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so,” de Kock said.
The South African players and team management were locked in discussions with CSA’s top officials on Wednesday night. At the end of it, there was consensus that all the players will take the knee in unison from hereon.
The controversy had erupted hours before South Africa’s game against West Indies on Tuesday after CSA issued a sudden directive that all the players must take the knee before every match. De Kock did not wish to comply and chose to pull out of the clash against the defending champions, which the Proteas eventually won by eight wickets.
De Kock’s refusal was met with criticism from many quarters, especially considering the racial history of the rainbow nation and recent revelations that discrimination and name-calling on the basis of skin colour continued within the South African team well after the end of Apartheid.
De Kock – who is a senior figure in the current set-up with 53 Tests, 124 ODIs and 58 T20Is under his belt — insisted that he was not a racist, going on to explain the background of the family that he comes from.
“I was quiet on this very important issue until now. But I feel I have to explain myself a little bit. For those who don’t know, I come from a mixed-race family. My half-sisters are coloured and my step mom is black. For me, black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement. I am not a racist. In my heart of hearts, I know that. And I think those who know me know that,” he maintained.
De Kock made it clear that his displeasure was with the timing of CSA’s diktat and the need for all players to do as told when the message previously was that each individual could do as they wanted.
“I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do. We were previously told we had the choice to do what we felt we wanted to do. I won’t lie. I was shocked that we were told on the way to an important match that there was an instruction that we had to follow. I think it would have been better for everyone concerned if we had sorted this out before the tournament started. There always seems to be a drama when we go to World Cups. That isn’t fair.”
De Kock’s rationale will remain open for vigorous debate. If he has a problem with symbolic gestures, after all, he has never objected to playing the ‘Pink ODI’ — an annual fixture in South Africa’s home season — to raise awareness about breast cancer. After scoring a century against West Indies in June this year, he raised his bat and showed the sticker of an organisation that is working for the cause of rhino conservation in South Africa.
“I didn’t understand why I had to prove it with a gesture....” de Kock wrote in his statement/ “When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning. If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society.”
South Africa’s first black captain, Temba Bavuma, had in fact defended de Kock’s personal choice in a long press-conference after the West Indies match which centred almost entirely around the de Kock controversy. The wicketkeeper acknowledged that support in his statement.
“I just want to thank my teammates for their support, especially my captain, Temba. People might not recognise, but he is a flipping amazing leader,” he said. “If he and the team, and South Africa, will have me, I would love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again.”