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'I believe de Kock is committed to an antiracist agenda' - CSA chairperson Lawson Naidoo

Says board mandated taking a knee as it is important to send out right message "to the South African public and the broader global community"

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Before South Africa's T20 World Cup opener against Australia, some of the players took a knee  •  ICC via Getty

Before South Africa's T20 World Cup opener against Australia, some of the players took a knee  •  ICC via Getty

Cricket South Africa believes that Quinton de Kock is "committed to an antiracist agenda" along with the rest of the squad, but wanted uniform conduct and messaging from the team at the Men's T20 World Cup. That is what led to the board issuing a directive on Tuesday morning that the entire touring party must take a knee before each game, according to chairperson Lawson Naidoo. de Kock was the only person who did not comply and withdrew from the match against West Indies.
Speaking on a podcast Eusebius on TimesLive , Naidoo explained that CSA wants its team to be seen acting out antiracism in public. "The issue is not about questioning the commitment of any of the players towards combating racism but it is about the conduct they display and the messages that sends out to the South African public and the broader global community during a world event," Naidoo said. "We expect South Africans to be leading the world globally on [this topic], given our particular history and the particular circumstances that have prevailed in South Africa. It's a position where South Africa should be a leader, not a follower."
While Naidoo could provide no further clarity on whether de Kock will participate in the rest of the tournament as he awaits a team management report, he cautioned against knee-jerk reactions to de Kock's refusal to take a knee. "I believe Quinny is committed to an antiracist agenda, the depth of his conviction is something you will have to ask him about. From the team environment, I don't think this is about anybody not wanting to contribute to the fight against racism," he said. "As for the consequences for Quinny - we'll have to see when we get a report from team management."
What is certain is that CSA will not back down from their instruction after Naidoo detailed how the board took the decision to make it obligatory for the team to take a knee after they saw visuals of the team's opening game. "The visual images that emerged from the weekend's game against Australia demonstrated a team that came across as being disjointed and disorganised, as not really on the same level as each other, and that's something to be corrected," Naidoo said. "There is no suggestion that any of the players is not committed to the fight against racism but it's how they demonstrate it that's important.
"Cricket is the second most watched sport in the world. Our players, as leaders in that field, need to take the responsibility and see their bigger responsibility towards society as a whole, and towards their team-mates and to be able to find each other, even if they are not fully committed to the decisions being taken, in the interests of the team. That's what team spirit is all about."
He admitted that CSA did not consult with the team on the day it issued the directive but pointed out that discussions have been ongoing since last November, when South Africa hosted England and decided not to take a knee. "We didn't consult with the team.There were reports that the team had continued discussing this matter and were unable to arrive at a consensus position that they could all agree to," Naidoo said. "There have been ongoing discussions around this for some time. It's not as though this has come out of the blue.
"There have been discussions, culture camps and discussion forums within the team environment. The team has been unable to resolve this matter internally. We need to resist the temptation of overcomplicating what is a very simple issue of taking a stand against racism and asking people to replicate what is happening in other sports codes, in other parts of the world and a position that has been adopted by several other teams."
Asked if the gesture would be more powerful if it was done voluntarily rather than under instruction, Naidoo conceded the point, but said that he hopes the directive will lead to the introspection that will make taking a knee genuine. "Voluntarism would have been the ideal situation. That's why we allowed the players the time and the space to try and come to that conclusion themselves. They were unable to do so and therefore it was necessary for the board to make this intervention. It was a tough decision that needed to be taken and one that the board unanimously agreed on.
"I have a certain level of cynicism about this gesture [becoming meaningless] going forward, [but] knowing the context of it, that is why it was important for us to make it absolutely clear, for the board to stand up and say that we have issued this directive and we expect the players to abide by it, which they have done. The longer term and the other side of this is that the image it represents across the world is one that will hopefully grow within the team environment and allow that real culture and commitment to develop on the understanding that this is the right thing to do."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent