Waleed Aly has jumped to the defence of one of the world’s best cricketers who refused to take a knee for the Black Lives Matter movement.
South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock made headlines around the world on Tuesday when he refused to take a knee at the T20 World Cup.
His refusal to participate in the anti-racism gesture sparked an explosive reaction in Australia, where indigenous ABC Breakfast presenter Tony Armstrong ‘saw red’ and blasted the South African’s actions as ‘racist’ live on air.
De Kock, who comes from a mixed race family, issued an apology and explained his actions by saying he felt his rights were ‘taken away’ after players were instructed just hours before the game to take a knee.
The Project co-host, who is of Egyptian background and is Muslim, leapt to de Kock’s defence and said he understood the cricketer’s reluctance.
‘Especially when it came out that he was just told on the way to the ground and all of that sort of stuff,’ Aly told the program on Thursday night.
‘I think that there’s a thing that sport has to think about here, which is, it’s one thing for sport to take a stand…
‘It’s another thing when you compel every player to take the same stand, especially when you compel them a couple of hours before a game.’
Aly said it was unfair of Cricket South Africa to spring the directive on players and that though he himself would have complied by taking the knee, he understands why de Koch took a defiant stand.
‘There was no conversation and suddenly he’s meant to process this and take on something that the game or Cricket South Africa and a statement that they want to make as his own personal one,’ Aly continued.
‘Yeah, if I was in his position, I’m taking the knee. But I can kind of understand why it would trip a wire.
‘It’s a really weird situation for a player to be in.’
South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock made headlines around the world on Tuesday when he refused to take a knee at the T20 World Cup
Armstrong, who was a guest panelist on The Project, agreed.
He has backed down from his fiery rant and described de Koch’s apology as ‘incredible’.
‘Full credit it to him for coming out with such a strong statement, really explaining what it was all about,’ he said.
Earlier in the segment, Armstrong, a former AFL star, explained why he ‘saw red’ and reacted so strongly to the controversy a day earlier.
‘I felt so visceral about the fact that this player was not going to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,’ he said,
‘While I understand that it can be tokenistic for big sport to go out there and take a knee, but what are they really doing behind it?
‘It still means a lot to see it. It means a lot to me. I feel it. And I felt myself getting more and more angry about this.’
Indigenous ABC Breakfast presenter Tony Armstrong ‘saw red’ and blasted the South African’s actions as ‘racist’ live on air
Armstrong accepted de Kock’s explanation and admitted he made a mistake by assuming the cricketer was racist for not taking a knee.
‘I’m so glad that he’s come out and said what he said. Because I think what he might not have realised in the moment was – just what it means to so many people,’ he said.
‘I questioned, I guess, how racist do you have to be to not want to do the bare minimum by taking a knee? And that was just- you know, that was a mistake on my behalf in hindsight.
‘But in the moment, that was exactly how I felt because I saw a lack of support for that movement and for that moment. And whilst it’s such a little thing, it clearly goes such a long way.’
All players and staff were directed to take a knee before the T20 World Cup match between South Africa and the West Indies on Tuesday night.
De Kock refused and instead pulled out of the match altogether for ‘personal reasons’.
He has since apologised to his teammates and fans, saying it was never meant to be a ‘Quinton’ thing.
‘I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told,’ he said, adding he thinks other players were also uncomfortable with the order,’ he said.
Aly said it was unfair of Cricket South Africa to spring the directive on players and that why he would have complied by taking the knee, he understands why de Koch took a defiant stand
‘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.’
De Kock´s refusal to play because of the Black Lives Matter gesture sparked fierce reaction at home in South Africa, where issues of race and racism are constantly in the headlines because of the country´s history of forced segregation under the apartheid regime, which ended in 1994.
It also sparked a strong reaction in Australia.
‘We’ve seen sporting teams right around the world start to get behind this movement,’ Armstrong said on News Breakfast 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.’
His co-host Michael Rowland joined in on the discussion adding: ‘At the very best it is confounding, confusing and puzzling.’
Armstrong noted that South Africa along with many other nations had a ‘chequered’ past when it came to issues of race and said he felt for the South African captain who had to explain his teammate’s position.
At the toss, South African captain Temba Bavuma said de Kock had withdrawn for ‘personal reasons’, but, after his side defeated the West Indies, Bavuma said he had been ‘surprised and taken aback’ by the development.
South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, one of the leading cricketers in the world, refused to take a knee in the lead up to a match against West Indies in the T20 World Cup
ABC presenter Tony Armstrong said de Kock’s decision not to take a knee was ‘racist’
He said it had been ‘one of my toughest days to deal with as a captain’, but added: ‘Quinton is an adult. You have to respect his decision, whether you agree with it or not. I can’t force others to see things the way I do, and neither can they force me.’
The drama began a few hours before Tuesday’s match, when the South African board told their players ‘to adopt a consistent and united stance against racism’ and take a knee ahead of every match.
But de Kock — his side’s opener, wicketkeeper and best batsman — decided during the coach journey to the Dubai International Cricket stadium that he would not join in, effectively ruling himself out of the match, and possibly the tournament.
Cricket South Africa released a statement following Tuesday’s incident.
‘Cricket South Africa has noted the personal decision by South African wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock not to ‘take the knee’ ahead of Tuesday’s game against the West Indies,’ the statement read.
‘All players had been required, in line with a directive of the CSA board on Monday evening … in a united and consistent stance against racism.
‘The Board will await a further report from team management before deciding on the next steps.’
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard appeared unaware of the day’s events but said taking a knee was ‘something we feel strongly about as a team and as a people’.
Cricket South Africa ordered their players to take the knee following their disjointed support for the Black Lives Matter movement against Australia last week (above)
De Kock is seen on the far left here electing not to take the knee before a T20 match against Sri Lanka last September
De Kock has long chosen to stand while his team-mates took the knee in previous matches
‘We will continue to do it. Everyone has their own opinions on it. Education is the key.’
It is not the first time de Kock has gone against the grain.
In June, before a Test against West Indies in St Lucia, he was the only South African to opt against the gesture, later saying: ‘I’ll keep my reasons to myself.’
Meanwhile, the mood wasn’t pleasant in the commentary box with ex-West Indies captain Darren Sammy saying he didn’t understand why taking a knee was so hard.
‘Sometimes I don’t understand why is it so difficult to support this movement if you understand what it stands for,’ he said.
‘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.’
Cricket South Africa responded yesterday by putting out another statement, insisting ‘it was imperative for the team to be seen taking a stand against racism, especially given South Africa’s history’.
It remains unclear what this will mean for de Kock’s future in the tournament.
The taking a knee stance first gained traction when American footballer Colin Kaepernick crouched onto one knee during the national anthem before a match in 2016.
At the time he said he couldn’t stand and show respect for a country that oppressed people of colour.