The South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) has thrown its weight behind fast bowler Lungi Ngidi after at least three former internationals criticised him for his stance on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. On Monday, Ngidi said he hopes South African players will join the "rest of the world and make a stand," of anti-racism, especially given the country's history. On Facebook, Rudi Steyn, Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar took issue with Ngidi's statement, and SACA has labelled their comments "unfair."
Ngidi's domestic franchise, the Titans, issued a statement in support of both the BLM movement and the campaign against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) while Cricket South Africa confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that it will use the 3TC match on July 18 to show support for both causes. Ngidi is one of 24 players who will participate in the fixture, which marks South African players' return to the field after more than three months of inaction because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Black Lives Matter. It is as simple as that," said CSA's acting CEO, Jacques Faul. "As a national sporting body representing more than 56 million South Africans and with the privileged position of owning a platform as large as we do, it is of vital importance that we use our voice to educate and listen to others on topics involving all forms of discrimination.
"During our celebrations of Nelson Mandela International Day on 18 July, CSA will further spread the message of anti-racism through the BLM campaign while we also speak out against all forms of violence and in particular, the scourge that is Gender Based Violence and various other causes that are of importance to our society and the organization."
Since the onset of the pandemic, the BLM movement has swept through the sporting world, from the English Premier League and Formula 1 to the Test cricket in England, and SACA has joined the chorus calling for high-profile players to use their status to exert a positive influence. "At SACA, we support the concept of the athlete activist," CEO Andrew Breetzke told ESPNcricinfo. "Ultimately, individual activism translates to collective activism and it can lead to institutional change. We support Lungi in exercising his right to express his support for the BLM movement and we believe the unfair criticism directed at him undermines that right."
@NgidiLungi I am right behind you boy!— Tabraiz Shamsi (@shamsi90) July 9, 2020
You said NOTHING wrong!
Black, white or brown... NO ONE should be treated with hatred, cruelty or differently based on their skin colour#BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter #Peace #LungiNgidi
The criticism SACA referred to began on Tuesday when, in response to Ngidi's comments, former national batsman Rudi Steyn put up a Facebook post: "I believe the Proteas should make a stand against racism, but if they stand up for "black lives matter" while ignoring the way white farmers are daily being "slaughtered" like animals, they have lost my vote."
Symcox was one of more than 100 people to comment: "What nonsense is this. He must take his own stand if he wishes. Stop trying to get the Proteas involved in his belief….Now when Ngidi has his next meal perhaps he would rather consider supporting the farmers of South Africa who are under pressure right now."
Dippenaar added: "All lives matter. If you want me to stand shoulder to shoulder with you Lungi then stand shoulder to shoulder with me with regards to farm attacks."
South Africa is routinely ranked among the world's most crime-ridden countries. In the 2018-19 crime statistics report, there were 21,022 murders, of which 47 were farm murders. In the period under review, the crime with the highest percentage increase was rape. For that reason, CSA, have been strong in their support against GBV. The women's team were due to wear black in a T20 match against Australia on March 22 to raise awareness about femicide and violence against women but the series was postponed.
Now, CSA see an opportunity to reignite that cause at the 3TC match, which coincides with Nelson Mandela's birthday. "We're going to use the 18th to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela," Jacques Faul, CSA Acting CEO said. "We want to embrace the message of non-racism through the BLM campaign. We are also going to use the day to raise awareness around GBV. It's wonderful to see Mignon (du Preez) as one of the coaches to promote gender equality."
There is a suggestion the players will wear an armband and there will messaging on the field and perimeter boards. This comes a day after director of cricket Graeme Smith explained that the players will collectively discuss "effective, authentic and meaningful ways," to contribute to the conversation. .
The comment made on the @3TCricket kit did not mean that our players will not be showing their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We are working on creative ideas to incorporate BLM into the kit & our will to add our voice to this very important & necessary conversation. https://t.co/FFPnxxqZoU— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) July 9, 2020
A CSA statement on their BLM policy is expected before the 3TC event. At domestic level, the Titans have already added their voice by expressing commitment to change. "We have fully embraced transformation and its aims, and we will continue to strive for fully representational teams and work places across our franchise," Pierre Joubert, interim CEO, said in a statement on Thursday.
While it is not known when South Africa's home season will begin, and so when next the Titans will take the field, their coach Mandla Mashimbyi indicated they will also make a statement in favour of BLM and against GBV. "We know only too well as a country how important the Black Lives Matter movement is. We bat vehemently against discrimination of any kind, and we will always strive to provide opportunities within our Titans family for all the colours and cultures within our rainbow nation," Mashimbyi said. "We want to lend our voice to all those shouting for the scourge of violence against our mothers, sisters and daughters to stop. As citizens of this beautiful country, it is our collective responsibility to put a stop to the shocking actions of violence, often from people known to their victims."
Mashimbyi also added his support to Ngidi. "Lungi did not mean to upset anyone. He was standing up against injustice. All injustice is wrong and no-one should be attacked for expressing their view on it."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent