Former AFL player turned TV presenter Tony Armstrong led criticism Wednesday of South African Quinton de Kock’s decision to miss a T20 World Cup match after being directed to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Proteas wicketkeeper withdrew from South Africa’s game against the West Indies after Cricket South Africa (CSA) issued a directive to players and staff to take a knee.
Speaking on ABC Breakfast, Armstrong said it was “confounding” de Kock would take that action, considering South Africa’s history with racism.
“We’ve seen sporting teams right around the world start to get behind this movement,” Armstrong, a former teammate of Adam Goodes who wrote this piece on racism in sport for AthletesVoice, said.
“So for him to not do that, all that I think — and this is my own personal opinion — the question has been bubbling in my mind is how racist do you have to be, to not just take a knee and do that in conjunction with your teammates to show support, to even pretend to show support? You’ve got to be pretty strong on your conviction not to.
“At the very best it is confounding, confusing and puzzling.”
Armstrong was a member of the Swans team at the MCG the night Goodes was called an ‘ape’ by a teenager. That incident cascaded into years of hatred levelled at Goodes.
Armstrong said he felt for South Africa captain Temba Bavuma who gave backing to his teammate.
“I really felt for their captain who had to get up there as a man of colour and toe the party line,” Armstrong said.
Bavuma said the team was “surprised and taken aback” by de Kock’s refusal to play.
“In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He’s a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision. We respect his convictions,” Bavuma said.
“From the team‘s point of view, unfortunately we still have to get the job done. There was still a game of cricket there for our country, and it was important, as much as everything was happening, that we found a way to get into the right mental space and take it home for our country.
“But as far as we stand, Quinton is still one of the players. He’s still one of the boys, so whatever support that he needs, whatever shoulder that he requires from his teammates, we’ll be there for him.
“If there’s a need for further conversations to be had, I’m sure those will definitely happen among the guys.”
West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard said: “You guys know our thoughts on this matter. It’s something that we feel strongly about as a team and as people as well and we will continue to do it.
“Each and everyone has their own opinions on it, but as I’ve always said, once you’re educated and you understand, we will understand why you are doing it, but I think education sort of is the key, and we don’t want anyone doing it for us in solitude or to feel sorry for us.”
Speaking from the commentary box, former Zimbabwean cricketer Pommie Mbangwa and ex-West Indies captain Darren Sammy discussed the drama.
“Excuse me if I sound political because some will say it’s political, but I can’t shed my skin,” Mbangwa said.
“I hope that the discussion at the very least can be about how to be united about something that everyone agrees on. This is also the hope that there is agreement in that regard.”
Sammy added: “Sometimes I don’t understand why is it so difficult to support this movement if you understand what it stands for. That’s just my opinion what my kind have been through. There are a lot of issues affecting the world but I don’t understand why it’s so difficult.”
There were those who felt CSA did not have the right to direct the players to take a knee.
“It should treat its players as adults, not as foolish children who need to be taught some manners, and recognise that with the advent of maturity, a man or a woman is entitled to exercise his or conscience,” wrote Simon Heffer wrote in The UK Telegraph.
“De Kock, who has never acted against the interests of black people, should be credited with a conscience and not just with being bloody-minded. If his career comes unstuck because of his wish to exercise his personal freedom rather than being dictated to, it would be an act to be added to cricket’s regrettably lengthening roll of shame.”
Fellow journalist Sam Street wrote: “The Springboks don’t take the knee. (South Africa’s football team) Bafana Bafana don’t take the knee. So why were Cricket South Africa making out it was a special ‘South African responsibility’ to perform a gesture so uncommon in the country?”
Michael Vaughan, the ex-England captain felt it should be an individual choice.
Surely it’s down to the individual to decide whether he or she wants to be involved in any movement … A Cricket board should request players to do it but if that individual decides they don’t want too it should not stop them playing the game of Cricket … #T20WorldCup #DeKock
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) October 26, 2021