South Africa’s cricket team has been hit for six on social media after Cricket South Africa (CSA) expressed their “ongoing commitment” to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement when players raised their fists before the first Test against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
South Africa first democratically elected and first Black president Nelson Mandela raised a clenched fist after his release from prison in 1990 to symbolize the phenomenon of ‘Black Power.’
“The raised fist is a powerful gesture in our history,” said a team statement. Referring to Mandela’s salute, the Proteas added it was “an acknowledgment of the struggle against apartheid” and represented a “commitment to continuing to fight for equality, justice, and freedom.”
Netizens and fans though, were not impressed, with former star Proteas all-rounder Jacques Kallis lamenting the fact that there was no tribute to cricket legend Robin Jackman who died this week, and a quick reply from Andre about the players’ raised fists.
‘No normal sport in an abnormal society’
South Africa were banned from international cricket from 1970 until 1991 because of apartheid.
Under Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) ethnic quota policy – intended to help redress imbalances created during the apartheid era – the national team must contain at least two black Africans and four others from the Coloured and Indian communities.
South Africa said last month they “unanimously” decided not to take the knee before matches against England, as they felt it not “resonate” within a South African context. American football star and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick’s action of kneeling in protest during the United States national anthem in 2016 has since become a worldwide symbol in the crusade against racial injustice.
Some tweeted that the clenched fist was a ‘communist symbol’ which had no place in SA cricket while issuing a veiled threat of boycotting future Proteas matches.
Many sports teams and individuals have taken the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement this year following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and subsequent protests across the world.
EVERY SOUTH AFRICA RAISED THEIR RIGHT FIST
Every South Africa player raised their right fist before the start of play on day one of the first Test against Sri Lanka at Centurion on Saturday.
“We continue to own our journey,” said CSA in a statement.
And it seems the Proteas were bracing themselves for a backlash.
“We recognize that our actions will most likely result in criticism from some community, one way or another, but we work to prioritize the team, to be honest about our own learning journey and to continue to make decisions that we can own in good conscience as a team, first and foremost, and as individuals.”
The Proteas said through a “process of deep democracy,” the team had decided to raise their fists as a symbol of their “ongoing commitment” to racial equality.
They added that as Kaepernick’s gesture has a “deep significance in the USA political environment,” they have chosen one which “resonates in our South African context,” while also citing Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power Salute on the podium at the 1968 Olympics.
“We recognise the historical and political connotations of the raised fist as a gesture of ongoing solidarity in the fight for racial justice and anti-racism work,” the statement added.
“We stand together and raise our fists as a gesture of solidarity and commitment to continuing the work of pursuing racial justice in our lifetimes.”