South Africa’s Quinton de Kock took the knee ahead of the T20 World Cup clash against Sri Lanka on Saturday, four days after pulling out of a match for refusing to do so.
The 28-year-old apologised to his South African team-mates and fans on Thursday after pulling out of Tuesday’s game against West Indies because he refused to take the knee, later insisting: ‘I am not a racist.’
And on Saturday morning, after being reinstated into the team, De Kock did take the knee prior to the Sri Lanka match in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
In a dramatic statement issued less than 48 hours after he threatened to derail South Africa’s T20 World Cup campaign and jeopardise his own career, De Kock said he was ‘deeply sorry for all the hurt, confusion and anger I have caused’, and asked to be reinstated to the side.
He added: ‘I understand the importance of standing against racism and the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If taking the knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.’
De Kock’s U-turn followed a ‘very emotional’ discussion between Cricket South Africa and Temba Bavuma’s team on Wednesday night, in which the board explained why they had told the players the previous morning that they had to take the knee before every game.
South Africa ‘s Quinton de Kock took the knee ahead of the T20 World Cup clash against Sri Lanka on Saturday after refusing to do so earlier this week
After being reinstated into the team, De Kock did take the knee prior to the Sri Lanka match in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Earlier this week, Cricket South Africa ordered their players to take the knee following their disjointed support for the Black Lives Matter movement against Australia last week (above)
De Kock is seen on the far left here electing not to take the knee before a T20 match against Sri Lanka last September
De Kock’s U-turn came after clear-the-air talks with Cricket South Africa – there were concerns that he had played his last game for his country
Captain Temba Bavuma said at the toss: ‘One change, Quinton is in for Klaasen. The team is feeling much better than we were a couple of days ago.
‘Quinton is in a much better state. As a team we’re good and ready for the game today.’
De Kock, who has previously declined to take the knee without giving his reasons, explained he had never felt the need to prove his anti-racism credentials and criticised Cricket South Africa for forcing players to make a stance.
‘When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning,’ he said.
‘If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society.
‘I come from a mixed-race family. For me, black lives have mattered since I was born.
‘The rights and equality of all people is more important than any individual. I was raised to understand that we all have rights, and they are important. I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way we were told.’
De Kock decided on the coach journey to the ground ahead of the West Indies match that he would not take a knee and would not feature in the match
His replacement Heinrich Klaasen (left) did take the knee ahead of their victory on Tuesday
De Kock has long chosen to stand while his team-mates took the knee in previous matches
But the reaction to De Kock’s decision clearly made an impact. Bavuma, South Africa’s captain, said he was surprised and taken aback by his refusal, and CSA said it was imperative for the team to be seen taking a stand against racism, especially given the country’s history.
De Kock said: ‘I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer. Doff. Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn’t hurt.
‘Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply. It hurts my family. It hurts my wife.
‘I am not a racist. And I think those who know me know that. If Temba and the team, and South Africa, will have me, I would love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again.’
On Wednesday, South African newspaper The Citizen summed up cricket’s racial politics – especially in that country – with the headline: ‘Cricket on its knees.’
De Kock insists being called a racist has hurt him and his pregnant wife Sasha (right)
South African paper The Citizen’s front page led with the headline ‘Cricket on its knees’
Cricket South Africa’s viewpoint wasn’t met with the full support of everyone as ex-England captain Michael Vaughan condemned their position.
‘Surely it’s down to the individual to decide whether he or she wants to be involved in any movement,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘A cricket board should request players to do it but if that individual decides they don’t want to it should not stop them playing the game of cricket.’
In the commentary box, former Zimbabwe seamer Pommie Mbangwa could not hide his disappointment. ‘Excuse me for being political,’ he said, ‘but I cannot shed my skin.’
Fellow commentator Daren Sammy, a former West Indies captain, was also dismayed, saying: ‘There are other issues affecting the world but I don’t understand why it is so difficult.’
Meanwhile, West Indies all-rounder Carlos Braithwaite could see both sides of the argument calling it a ‘watershed moment’.
Pommie Mbangwa (left) and Daren Sammy (right) spoke out against De Kock’s actions
‘I know Quinton de Kock quite well and I have never felt any bad blood or bad vibe from him,’ he told the BBC.
‘I’m not an advocate of forcing anyone to do something that they don’t want to do. But I also understand where Cricket South Africa is coming from, this is a watershed moment for the Black Lives Matter movement.’
Pre-match, South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj insisted ‘no one is a racist within our team’ as they prepare to welcome back De Kock following the wicketkeeper-batter’s apology.
‘We all support one another and respect everyone’s cultural, religious and spiritual differences,’ Maharaj said. ‘I am a very religious person, so I know you’ve got to be accepting of a lot of things, and we respect that.
Keshav Maharaj has insisted that there are no racists within the South Africa team
‘No one is a racist within our team. We’re all in the team in a good space at the moment. It’s been a tough week, but I think it’s drawn us together and we’ve drawn some strength and inspiration from this.’
‘The boys are mature enough and adult enough to sort of adapt to the situation. I think the spirits were really high at training.
‘There’s that buzz and that drive that’s back into the team after quite a long two days. But yeah, I think the boys are in good stead, and our focus is back on the cricket for now.’
DE KOCK’S FULL STATEMENT ON THURSDAY
‘I would like to start by saying sorry to my teammates, and the fans back home.
‘I never ever wanted to make this a Quinton issue. I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example.
‘If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.
‘I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves. Maybe some people don’t understand that we were just hit with this on Tuesday morning, on the way to a game.
‘I am deeply sorry for all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused.
‘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.
‘The rights and equality of all people is more important than any individual.
‘I was raised to understand that we all have rights, and they are important.
‘I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told.
‘Since our chat with the board last night, which was very emotional, I think we all have a better understanding of their intentions as well. I wish this had happened sooner, because what happened on match day could have been avoided.
‘I know I have an example to set. We were previously told we had the choice to do what we felt we wanted to do.
‘I chose to keep my thoughts to myself, and thought of the pride of playing for my family and my country.
‘I didn’t understand why I had to prove it with a gesture, when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day. 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.
‘Those who have grown up with me and played with me, know what type of person I am.
‘I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer. Doff. Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn’t hurt. Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply.
‘It hurts my family. It hurts my pregnant wife [Sasha].
‘I am not a racist. In my heart of hearts, I know that. And I think those who know me know that.
‘I know I’m not great with words, but I’ve tried my best to explain how truly sorry I am for making like this is about me.
‘It is not.
‘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, with a perceived ‘or else.’ I don’t think I was the only one.
‘We had camps. We had sessions. We had zoom meetings. We know where we all stand. And that is together.
‘I love every one of my teammates, and I love nothing more than playing cricket for South Africa.
‘I think it would of been better for everyone concerned if we had sorted this out before the tournament started.
‘Then we could have focused on our job, to win cricket matches for our country.
‘There always seems to be a drama when we go to World Cups. That isn’t fair.
‘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.
‘If he and the team, and South Africa, will have me, I would love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again.