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Former cricketers, coaches back Lungi Ngidi, demand end to subtle & overt racism

More than 30 former Proteas cricketers and five senior coaches have applauded Lungi Ngidi for calling on the current Proteas team to take a stand against racism.

Lungi Ngidi. Picture: Twitter/@OfficialCSA

JOHANNESBURG - Thirty-one former Proteas cricketers and five senior coaches have thrown their weight behind current bowler, Lungi Ngidi, and the global #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The group includes international players such as Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, Paul Adams, JP Duminy, Charl Langeveldt, and Herschelle Gibbs.

In a statement, the players applauded Ngidi for calling on the current Proteas team to take a stand against racism.

The group said, “We commend Lungi Ngidi for supporting #BlackLivesMatter – and we’d like to add our support for it too. 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”.

They also spoke out against former players who criticised Ngidi's suggestion.

“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.”

The statement went on further to discuss their own struggles as black players playing cricket.

“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.

"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 group has now called on Cricket SA to not just back the BLM movement, but implement lasting changes.

“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.”

While transformation has been a divisive concept amongst supporters, the cricketers pointed out that the players earned the right to play for the national team through their hard work.

“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 group further added that they all “have stories to tell about the racism they have had to endure as they strove to get to the top of their sporting careers”.

They further added that “sadly, these have often been at the hands of teammates”.

By speaking out, the former players and current coaches 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.”

They went on to add, “racism is a global problem and, as the great Michael Holding explained, we can no longer just keep on laughing, grimacing and moving on. 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".

The statement was signed by the following former players and current coaches:
1 Makhaya Ntini
2 Vernon Philander
3 Ashwell Prince
4 Paul Adams
5 JP Duminy
6 Charl Langeveldt
7 Mfuneko Ngam
8 Robin Peterson
9 Aaron Phangiso
10 Justin Ontong
11 Herschelle Gibbs
12 Roger Telemachus
13 Wayne Parnell
14 Monde Zondeki
15 Omar Henry
16 Alfonso Thomas
17 Victor Mpitsang
18 Henry Davids
19 Loots Bosman
20 Henry Williams
21 Alviro Petersen
22 Thandi Tshabalala
23 Rory Kleinveldt
24 Thami Tsolekile
25. Dane Piedt
26. Garnett Kruger
27. Shafiek Abrahams
28. Lonwabo Tsotsobe
29 Eddie Leie
30. Imraan Khan
31. Ethy Mbhalati
32. Geoffrey Toyana
33 Wandile Gwavu
34. Rivash Gobind
35. Mandla Mashimbyi
36. Faiek Davids