“If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so,” he says.
In a statement, released on Thursday morning, de Kock explained his decision not to take the knee on Tuesday was a response to feeling “like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told,” by the CSA board. However, after an “emotional” conversation between the board and the players last night, he has a “better understanding of their intentions” and “will love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again.”
That means de Kock has made himself available for selection for the rest of the tournament, which for South Africa, resumes on Saturday against Sri Lanka.
He recognised that he has dominated the cricket conversation in the last 48 hours, although he said that was unintentional. “I never ever wanted to make this a Quinton issue” de Kock’s statement read. “I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.”
De Kock was the only player in the South African squad who had previously chosen not to make any gesture in support of antiracism and said that that was because he “didn’t understand why I had to prove it (his feelings on antiracism) with a gesture, when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day,” he said.
De Kock explained his own journey in understanding the complexities of race in South Africa by making a reference to his family. “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.”
For that reason, de Kock felt his own rights were being eclipsed by the CSA board, even though he recognised that he acts as a role model. “I know I have an example to set. We were previously told we had the choice to do what we felt we wanted to do,” he said. “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.”
“I won’t lie, I was shocked that we were told on the way to an important match that there was an instruction that we had to follow, with a perceived “or else.” I don’t think I was the only one,” de Kock’s statement said. “We had camps. We had sessions. We had zoom meetings. We know where we all stand. And that is together. I think it would of (sic) been better for everyone concerned if we had sorted this out before the tournament started. Then we could have focused on our job, to win cricket matches for our country.”
“I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example. If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.”
Quinton de Kock
He also criticised CSA for adding to the burden the players carry when they enter major tournaments. “There always seems to be a drama when we go to World Cups. That isn’t fair.”
However, in hindsight, de Kock realised that opting out of the match put his team and the opposition in a difficult position. “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 all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused,” he said.
In the aftermath, the perception of de Kock as not standing for antiracism, hurt him.
“I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer. Doff. (Dumb) Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn’t hurt. Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply,” he said. “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.”
CSA said it welcomed de Kock’s apology and his agreeing to take the knee, among other developments, while reiterating that “taking a united stand against racism is a moral issue, not a political issue”. The chairman of the CSA board and two directors had met with the South African team and management on Wednesday night, where the policy to take the knee was discussed.
“Last night, the Cricket South Africa Board Chair and two directors met with the men’s Proteas team and management to discuss the Board’s directive regarding “taking the knee”. The Board representatives clarified the Board position and engaged with the issues raised by the players,” CSA said in a statement. “Following the meeting, the Proteas men’s team agreed to align and unify in taking the knee for the remaining fixtures of the World Cup campaign. CSA has also noted the statement issued by Quinton de Kock in which he too has agreed to take the knee and issued an apology.
“Cricket South Africa welcomes all of these developments. They confirm Cricket South Africa’s commitment to non-racism. Taking a united stance against racism is a moral issue, not a political issue. The CSA Board regrets that the timing of its directive earlier this week may have been unsettling for the players in the lead-up to the match against the West Indies. The CSA is fully supportive of the Protea Men’s team and its captain Temba Bavuma and looks forward to continued successes by the Proteas at the World Cup.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent