South Africa will join the campaign as a collective but have allowed individual players to make their own gestures of anti-racism
Almost a year to the day that West Indies became one of the first two international cricket sides to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter, their former captain Jason Holder has urged athletes to do more for anti-racism. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo ahead of West Indies’ series against South Africa, Holder said he wants the taking a knee to be given meaning again through greater awareness and action.
“I had a few discussions about it and I feel as though some people feel it’s now a watered-down action taken before the games. I would like to see some new initiative to spark the movement again,” Holder said. “I don’t want people to just think we’re taking the knee because Black Lives Matter, that’s the tradition and that’s the norm. It has to have some substance, it has to have some meaning behind it.”
Although West Indies are likely to take a knee at the start of each of the two Tests against South Africa, as they have done in all of the series they have played since the England tour last year, Holder indicated they may add to the activism by other means. “Maybe, that’s something we can do as a group. Maybe, a video collage and a video message, just to reiterate what the movement stands for and what it’s all about,” he said.
South Africa allow individual players to make own gestures
South Africa will join the campaign as a collective but have allowed individual players to make their own gestures of anti-racism, as they prefer.
“It’s been quite a journey for our side with regards to this topic,” Dean Elgar, South Africa’s new Test captain said. “We had a meeting with West Indies cricket yesterday – myself, Kraigg Braithwaite and the two team managers. Ultimately what happened is that we approached them to give them our version of going forward with regards to their campaign and us supporting the campaign. We have given the players their right to perform whichever act or gesture they want. If players are comfortable with taking a knee, they may. If a player wants to do the previous gesture that we had, of raising your right fist, they are entitled to do that. If they aren’t comfortable just yet, they’ve got to stand to attention so we can respect the campaign.”West Indies are likely to take a knee at the start of each of the two Tests against South Africa Getty ImagesThis is a marked departure from South Africa’s approach in the past, when they collectively decided not to take a knee. Instead, they wore black armbands on their return to play last November against England and had banners against racism and gender-based violence and then raised their fists in a black-power salute before the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka. The interim board expressed its disappointment at South Africa’s approach, especially given the country’s Apartheid history.
Now, South Africa have changed their stance with respecting their hosts foremost on their minds. “We have come a long way. There are players which aren’t comfortable with serving a gesture but ultimately, we have come to West Indies to respect their campaign,” Elgar said. “We have also come to West Indies on the back of a lot of long chats in our squad and its taken us a year to reach this point, where we feel every player has a right, a sense of belonging in this team and we have have come to the Caribbean not to disrespect the West Indies badge. We have made a massive step with regards to this and tomorrow players will be able to share their gestures.”
The subject has become topical in the cricketing world again after recent events in England, where Ollie Robinson has been suspended for historic tweets and other players are under investigation, and Holder recognised that racism remains a problem that needs to be addressed through more than just gestures.
“Racism is a big thing in the world and in society at this point in time,” Holder said. “I would like to see some more emphasis, some more thought process going into actually resparking or re-engaging the movement so it can actually hold some substance. Now, we are getting to a point where people are just saying we are taking the knee, but what do we actually take the knee for? Does it have that substance that it had before? To me, racism is something we need to speak out against. More awareness has to be going on around it. And the more we can do that, which could be in a different way rather than taking the knee, the better off we will be around this whole movement.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent