Thirty one black former Proteas and five senior coaches have thrown their weight behind Lungi Ngidi and the global “Black Lives Matter” campaign.
The group includes ex-internationals such as Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, Paul Adams, JP Duminy, Charl Langeveldt and Herschelle Gibbs.
Current Proteas’ fast bowler Ngidi came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement last week, saying that “As a nation … we have a past that is also difficult in terms of racial discrimination. So, definitely, we will be addressing it as a team. It’s something we have to take seriously and like the rest of the world is doing, take a stand.”
However, former white Proteas Rudi Steyn, Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar took to social media to confront Ngidi about his comments, claiming “All Lives Matter” which led to a massive debate flaring up on social media.
Cricket SA sent out a press release last Thursday saying it stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has now been given further support by this large group of former players in an official statement released on Tuesday.
“We commend Lungi Ngidi for supporting Black Lives Matter – and we’d like to add our support for it too,” the statement said.
“We note the criticism aimed at Lungi for expressing his views – and we hope that Cricket South Africa (CSA), together with fellow cricketers – both present and past – will come out strongly in support of BLM.
“We note too that the most outspoken criticism directed at Ngidi has come via former players such as Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn, Brian McMillan and others, and we urge that their views be challenged. We are not surprised at their comments.
“Given South Africa’s well-known past, black cricketers have borne the brunt of subtle and overt racist behaviour for many years, including from some colleagues. Consequently, there is a need to understand how white privilege feeds into the perpetuation of these old attitudes and assumptions.”
The former cricketers and coaches called on Cricket SA “to be unequivocal about its position and to make sure the problem of racism in cricket is confronted”.
“Our attitude, mistakenly, we now believe, has always been to say ‘these are teething problems, and that these will be resolved if we are patient’.
“But after almost three decades of cricket unity, the views expressed from one side of the racial divide are still very much part of our lives, and we now believe ‘teething problems cannot be allowed to continue for this long’,” the statement said.
“We see this as an opportunity for CSA to be unequivocal about its position and to make sure the problem is confronted, and we also invite our fellow white cricketers to join in this move to defend human dignity.
“We represent, or have represented, South Africa on merit. Far too many white South Africans cannot accept that black cricketers have proved, time without end, that they are good enough to play at the highest level.
“We want to remind South Africans that as recently as 2017, we were told that a South African sister sport, rugby, was ‘dead’ – killed by ‘transformation’. But guess what? South African rugby won a World Cup last year. We cannot recall anyone suggesting that the victory was due to transformation.
“Why is transformation always rammed down the throats of national teams when they lose, but never when they win? Can there be equal treatment, please?”
According to the statement, all the signatories have stated that they have stories to tell about the racism they have had to endure as they tried to get to the top of their sporting careers.
“Sadly, these have often been at the hands of teammates,” the statement said.
“It is important to bring these into the open, and for CSA to support black cricketers who come forward to air their stories. Here we also include our women colleagues.
“We live in a beautiful, diverse country, but where the playing fields are still far from level, and the transformation of cricket and people’s lives should be of paramount importance.
“We are determined that future generations should not have to experience the pain we have had to endure, and that no South African cricketer should be discriminated against in the future.
“We support Lungi Ngidi … we support #BLM and, in this week that we remember Nelson Mandela’s birthday, we believe that, with honesty and sincerity all-round, lingering racism in cricket and our beautiful country can be tackled once and for all – for the sake of every child and every cricketer in South Africa.”