Kagiso Rabada: I have a 'social responsibility' to fight for 'right causes'

Fast bowler talks about the BLM movement and what he learned from Nelson Mandela

Nagraj Gollapudi
South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada believes that as a sportsman he has a "social responsibility" to fight for the "right causes", including human rights. A staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Rabada has said that people cannot be made to "feel inferior", something he learned from Nelson Mandela.
Rabada was speaking at a virtual media briefing on Thursday organised by the Delhi Capitals, his IPL franchise. One of the questions was about what impressions Mandela had made on Rabada and how it had influenced him to work for the black community in South Africa.
"Nelson Mandela played a huge role in the world, particularly in South Africa - fighting for a basic need or right, which is freedom," Rabada said. "And it is important for people to not feel as if they are inferior…Liberation of the mind is the most important thing."
Being an international athlete, he said, he had the platform to express his opinion on such issues, which could be heard by the wider public. As much as it was a privilege, Rabada said it was also his responsibility to utilise that platform for human rights.
"That's the message you want to spread, especially as a sportsman where you do have a platform because a lot of people follow what you are doing. So it is a social responsibility to, at times, just remember that fighting for the right causes is important."
Rabada's comments came a day after the UK government voted against the campaign started by the Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to distribute free food vouchers to underprivileged school children until Easter 2021. Rashford started the campaign this summer successfully distributing the vouchers to poor children after schools were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Friday, though, public enterprises - restaurants and shops - and local councils across the UK responded to the government rebuff by offering free meals for children needing them in the current school holiday period. It is a show of solidarity in a community that reflected the potency of celebrity influence.
Other than being the year of the pandemic, 2020 has also reignited a worldwide debate about race and racial bias. Earlier this summer the West Indies cricket team took the knee on the first day of each of the three Tests they played in England. Jason Holder's team also wore arm bands to support the BLM protests that were triggered worldwide in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in the USA in March.
Speaking to the UK-based Cricket Writers Club this week, Holder said that it was important for people across cricket to understand where "we as black people are coming from" and the "harsh realities of how the world is setup" where there are a lot of "inequalities".
Holder, who on Thursday played his first IPL match this season for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, said he had not seen any discussion about BLM in the tournament which he found "sad."
When asked if he would take the knee in IPL, Rabada said he would, if told.
"I have already expressed that people know where I stand. But if they say we must, we will do it," Rabada told the India-based magazine the Week earlier in October.
Rabada agreed with both Holder and former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding who have both emphasised on the need for sport to educate athletes on racism. "Racism comes from somewhere," Rabada said in the interview earlier this month. "It does not just come by mistake. Racism is expressed in many ways. There are reasons why people are racists. So I think it is about understanding that. That is how you free yourself, make an informed decision and not just do something because others are doing it. The only way to do so is through education and from credible news."
Hence Rabada said he would always support the BLM movement. "For me, black lives matter. It has nothing to do with cricket or sports or business. Just black lives matter, and I will stand up for that. It does not mean that I expect to get treated like royalty everywhere I go. But from the pride and dignity point of view, black lives matter."
Rabada, though, pointed out he would not enforce his opinion on his team-mates because it was an individual responsibility. "And most certainly I wouldn't want to shove my opinions or my ideals down anyone's throat," he said on Thursday. "Like I said, if I am on this platform I will express my opinions like I am now on this matter. It is important for people to understand that on the political front liberation is really important. Human rights need to be treated with dignity. It is important."

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo