ABC presenter Tony Armstrong has questioned Quinton de Kock’s “confounding” call to withdraw from a match and avoid taking a knee.
Australian television presenter Tony Armstrong has slammed Quinton de Kock’s “confounding” decision not to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before a T20 World Cup match.
On Tuesday night, the Proteas wicketkeeper withdrew from South Africa’s game against the West Indies after Cricket South Africa (CSA) issued a directive to players and staff to take a knee.
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South Africa ultimately thrashed the West Indies by eight wickets, reaching their target of 144 with eight balls to spare — but the result was overshadowed by de Kock’s absence.
The Daily Telegraph reports de Kock has sensationally walked out of the T20 World Cup and will play no further part in the tournament.
“All players had been required, in line with a directive of the CSA Board on Monday evening, to ‘take the knee’ in a united and consistent stance against racism,” CSA said in a statement.
“This is also the global gesture against racism that has been adopted by sportspeople across sporting codes because they recognise the power of sport to bring people together.”
Speaking on ABC Breakfast, Armstrong said it was “confounding” de Kock would take such drastic action to avoid taking a knee, particularly considering South Africa’s chequered past with racism.
“We’ve seen sporting teams right around the world start to get behind this movement,” he said on Wednesday morning.
“So for him to not do that, all that I think — and this is my own personal opinion — the question has been bubbling in my mind is how racist do you have to be, to not just take a knee and do that in conjunction with your teammates to show support, to even pretend to show support? You’ve got to be pretty strong on your conviction not to.
“At the very best it is confounding, confusing and puzzling.”
Armstrong also sympathised with South African captain Temba Bavuma, who boldly fronted the media after the win over the West Indies.
“I really felt for their captain who had to get up there as a man of colour and toe the party line,” Armstrong said.
South African skipper’s candid reaction
Bavuma admitted his Proteas teammates were “surprised and taken aback” when de Kock refused to follow the team directive, but said he would be “standing behind whatever decision” the wicketkeeper makes.
“I think obviously as a team we’re obviously surprised and taken aback by the news,” he said.
“In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He’s a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision. We respect his convictions.
“From the team‘s point of view, unfortunately we still have to get the job done. There was still a game of cricket there for our country, and it was important, as much as everything was happening, that we found a way to get into the right mental space and take it home for our country.
“But as far as we stand, Quinton is still one of the players. He’s still one of the boys, so whatever support that he needs, whatever shoulder that he requires from his teammates, we’ll be there for him.
“If there’s a need for further conversations to be had, I’m sure those will definitely happen among the guys.”
Earlier this year, Bavuma was named the Proteas’ first black cricket captain.
West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard told reporters: “You guys know our thoughts on this matter. It’s something that we feel strongly about as a team and as people as well and we will continue to do it.
“Each and everyone has their own opinions on it, but as I’ve always said, once you’re educated and you understand, we will understand why you are doing it, but I think education sort of is the key, and we don’t want anyone doing it for us in solitude or to feel sorry for us.”
Disappointment at shock withdrawal
Many in the cricket community were bitterly disappointed by the stunning development, with pundits condemning de Kock’s actions.
Speaking from the commentary box, former Zimbabwean cricketer Pommie Mbangwa and ex-West Indies captain Darren Sammy debated the issue.
“Excuse me if I sound political because some will say it’s political, but I can’t shed my skin,” Mbangwa said. “I hope that the discussion at the very least can be about how to be united about something that everyone agrees on. This is also the hope that there is agreement in that regard.”
Sammy added: “Sometimes I don’t understand why is it so difficult to support this movement if you understand what it stands for. That’s just my opinion what my kind have been through. There are a lot of issues affecting the world but I don’t understand why it’s so difficult.”
Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle tweeted: “I fear we haven’t heard the last of the de Kock issue. I won’t be surprised if we don’t see him in a Protea shirt again.”
Cricket writer Mahlatse Mphahlele posted: “I Quinton de Kock has made himself unavailable for this #T20WorldCup match against the West Indies because players have been instructed to take the knee, then he must be withdrawn from the squad immediately.”
Cricket reporter Firdose Moonda tweeted: “It is so painful, as a South African of colour, to see how divided our national cricket side is. We spent generations being told we were second-class and here is a genuine opportunity to stand together and we don’t. People with our skin matter.”
Pundits jump to Quinton’s defence
Despite the backlash, several cricket commentators suggested CSA should not have enforced the directive on its players and staff.
English journalist Simon Heffer argued de Kock should not be labelled a racist for his decision.
“It should treat its players as adults, not as foolish children who need to be taught some manners, and recognise that with the advent of maturity, a man or a woman is entitled to exercise his or conscience,” Heffer wrote in The Telegraph.
“De Kock, who has never acted against the interests of black people, should be credited with a conscience and not just with being bloody-minded. If his career comes unstuck because of his wish to exercise his personal freedom rather than being dictated to, it would be an act to be added to cricket’s regrettably lengthening roll of shame.”
Speaking on GN News, former England cricketer Allan Lamb said: “If someone doesn’t want to do it, then we’ve got to accept that.”
Sports journalist Sam Street wrote: “The Springboks don’t take the knee. (South Africa’s football team) Bafana Bafana don’t take the knee. So why were Cricket South Africa making out it was a special ‘South African responsibility’ to perform a gesture so uncommon in the country?”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan posted on Twitter: “Surely it’s down to the individual to decide whether he or she wants to be involved in any movement … A Cricket board should request players to do it but if that individual decides they don’t want too it should not stop them playing the game of cricket.”
Former ICC CEO Malcolm Speed told SEN that CSA had “overreached in imposing this obligation on their players” because it “moves player contracts into moral and ethical issues”.
“Quinton’s career has been derailed. Whether there is a way back for him or not, it’s too early to tell, but it does not look good.”
With Andrew McMurtry & NCA NewsWire