Ngidi clashes with former players on racism

  • As a nation, we have a past that is very difficult in terms of racial discrimination. So, we will be addressing it as a team, says Ngidi

Bloemfontein cricketer Boeta Dippenaar finds himself on the wrong side of history, according to many cricket lovers across the globe following his recent remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Current Proteas’ fast bowler Lungelo Ngidi came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement last week when asked whether the team would also be taking a knee in support of the movement on Saturday (tomorrow), during a charity match, appropriately enough on Mandela Day.
Responding to the question, Ngidi said: “As a nation, we have a past that is difficult in terms of racial discrimination. So, 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.”
Ngidi was named SA’s men’s ODI and T20 Cricketer-of-the-Year at the annual CSA awards this past weekend. However, his remarks did not sit well with many white cricketers, including Dippenaar.
Former white Proteas players including Rudi Steyn and Pat Symcox 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.
In a Facebook post earlier this week, Steyn, himself a former Proteas batsman, posted that he agreed with Ngidi’s stance that the national team should make a stand against racism.

However, the former Free State batsman added they have “lost my vote” if the issue of farm murders in South Africa does not receive equal coverage.

“I believe the Proteas should make a stand against racism, but if they stand up for ‘black lives matter’ while ignoring the way white farmers are daily being ‘slaughtered’ like animals, they have lost my vote,” Steyn wrote, accompanied by an article of Ngidi urging SA cricketers to consider the Black Lives Matter stance.

Steyn’s post generated a heated debate, with several former cricketers getting involved. Dippenaar and Symcox made it clear that they were not in agreement with Ngidi.

Former opening batsman Dippenaar wrote: “I am afraid to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ have become nothing more than a leftist political movement. I would suggest that Lungi Ngidi listens a bit more to the likes of Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, and Milton Friedman.

“All lives matter. If you want me to stand shoulder to shoulder with you Lungi then stand shoulder to shoulder with me with regards to farm attacks.”

Former off-spinner Symcox added: “What nonsense is this? He must take his stand if he wishes. He should stop trying to get Proteas involved in his belief. Besides the fact that right now Cricket South Africa should be closed down. … A proper dog and pony show with cricket being dragged through the mud daily … Buy popcorn and watch.

“Now when Ngidi has his next meal perhaps he would rather consider supporting the farmers of South Africa who are under pressure right now, a cause worth supporting.”
The posts drew noticeable criticism directed at both Symcox and Dippenaar from social media users.
Other well-known former cricketers also added their voices.

Former Transvaal all-rounder Vince van der Bijl wrote: “Respect is allowing others to have their opinions. You are allowed yours. We do not have the space to state all the things that we talk about. And agree on. Saying one thing does not exclude other beliefs. We ache for so many things in this country. Hopefully, we can help the healing as opposed to widening the divides.”
Another former Transvaal all-rounder Hugh Page said: “In my opinion, all lives matter!” Yet another former Proteas all-rounder Brian McMillan noted, “Agreed Pagey. …… All lives do matter. The sooner everyone acknowledges it the better ….”

Following the former players’ outburst, Cricket South Africa (SA) sent out a press release 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 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 by 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 statement read.

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 noted.

“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 movement 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?” the statement added.

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,” it 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,” concluded the statement.

By: Thapelo Molebatsi