T20 World Cup: In apology, a message on right of choice
Quinton de Kock is expected to return to South Africa’s team after making a U-turn and deciding to take the knee before matches.
De Kock, the best T20 batsmen in his country’s World Cup squad, withdrew from the team just hours before the game against West Indies after the entire team were instructed to make the gesture before matches.
His action had led to strong criticism from some parts of the cricketing world and called into question whether he would ever again play for South Africa.
But in a statement issued on Thursday morning, De Kock, 28, insisted that he was not racist and did not feel he needed to prove his position with a gesture. He apologised to his teammates and said he would now take the knee. He is now likely to return to the South African team for their next match, a crucial game against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
“I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example,” De Kock said in his statement. “If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.
“I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves. Maybe some people don’t understand that we were just hit with this on Tuesday morning, on the way to a game.
“I am deeply sorry for the all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused. I was quiet on this very important issue until now. But I feel I have to explain myself a little bit.
“For those who don’t know, I come from a mixed race family. My half-sisters are Coloured and my step mom is black. For me, black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement.
“The rights and equality of all people is more important than any individual. I was raised to understand that we all have rights, and they are important. I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told.”
De Kock said that following an “emotional” chat with South Africa’s cricket board, the team had a “better understanding of their intentions”. “I wish this had happened sooner, because what happened on match day could have been avoided.”
Before Cricket South Africa (CSA)’s directive, players had used a number of gestures before games — some had taken a knee, others had raised a fist and some had stood to attention. De Kock was seen in the first game of the tournament, against West Indies last week, standing with his hands on his hips.
CSA had said before the West Indies game that it wanted players to take a “united and consistent stand against racism”. The Board’s blanket instruction was criticised by some as was De Kock’s withdrawal from the game.
De Kock said in his statement that he had been “shocked” by the edict and did not understand why he had to prove anti-racism with a gesture “when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day”.
“When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning. If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn’t build a better society.
“Those who have grown up with me and played with me know what type of person I am. I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer. Doff. Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn’t hurt. Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply.
“It hurts my family. It hurts my pregnant wife. I am not a racist. In my heart of hearts, I know that. And I think those who know me know that.”
He added: “I love every one of my team-mates, and I love nothing more than playing cricket for South Africa.”
CSA “noted” De Kock’s apology and said it had been accepted.
“The Proteas men’s team has agreed to align and unify in taking the knee for the remaining fixtures of the World Cup,” it said in a statement.
“Cricket South Africa welcomes all of these developments.”
De Kock is also part of the Indian Premier League team Mumbai Indians, which had traded him from Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2019. The left-handed batsman was bought by RCB for Rs 2.8 crore at the 2018 player auction.