Quinton de Kock breaks silence, says he will kneel alongside teammates

South African cricket star Quinton de Kock has broken his silence days after withdrawing from his nation’s match with the West Indies.

The wicketkeeper batsman sparked a furore when he pulled out of the match citing “personal reasons” after Cricket South Africa order all players to kneel in a gesture against racism.

The news quickly leaked out that the withdrawal was as a result of the mandate as de Kock doesn’t usually kneel.

But de Kock has finally broken his silence with a wide-ranging statement revealing how the past few days have impacted him and his family.

“I would like to start by saying sorry to my teammates, and the fans back home,” the statement began.

“I never ever wanted to make this a Quinton issue. 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 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 our way to the game.

“I am deeply sorry for 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.

“Since our chat with the board last night, which was very emotional, I think we all have a better understanding of their intentions as well. I wish this had happened sooner, because what happened on match day could have been avoided.

“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.

“I chose to keep my thoughts to myself, and thought of the pride of playing for my family and my country.

“I didn’t understand why I had to prove it 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.

“I know I’m not great with words, but I’ve tried my best to explain how truly sorry I am formaking like this is about me. It is not.

“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.

“We had camps. We had sessions. We had Zoom meetings. We know where we all stand. And that is together.

“I love every one of my teammates, and I love nothing more than playing cricket for South Africa.

“I think it would [have] 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.

“There always seems to be a drama when we go to World Cups. That isn’t fair.

“I just want to thank my teammates for their support, especially my captain, Temba. People might not recognise but he is a flipping amazing leader.

“If he and the team, and South Africa, will have me, I would love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again.”

What sparked de Kock controversy

De Kock stunned the cricket world on Tuesday when he pulled out of his team’s clash with the West Indies after CSA demanded all players “take the knee” before the game.

South Africa raised eyebrows in the match against Australia when players were seen making various gestures. Some knelt and raised a fist, some stood with a raised fist and others stood at attention — the three options given to South African players as of November last year.

De Kock had previously refused to speak on the issue, having been asked during a Test series in the West Indies, saying: “I’ll keep my reasons to myself and it is my own personal opinion. It is everyone’s decision and no one is forced to do something and that’s the way I see things.”

The news quickly spread and South African cricket writer Lungani Zama told SEN Breakfast the following morning that de Kock stood down due to the demand that players kneel, believing it is a “token gesture”.

The SMH also reported sections of the team believed de Kock’s refusal was also motivated by the board’s decision to strip him of the captaincy across all three formats of the game earlier this year.

De Kock’s refusal to kneel alongside his teammates sparked plenty of reaction as pundits questioned if he would ever play for the Proteas again.

Indian commentator Harsha Bhogle tweeted: “I fear we haven’t heard the last of the de Kock issue. I won’t be surprised if we don’t see him in a Protea shirt again.”

ABC sports reporter Tony Armstrong also made headlines when he asked: “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.”

Former Zimbabwean cricketer turned cricket commentator Pommie Mbangwa also gave a passionate statement after the news broke that de Kock had pulled out of the game.

“Excuse me if I sound political because some will say it’s political, but I can’t shed my skin,” Mbangwa said.

Reports also spread that an Australian Big Bash League team had reached out to de Kock’s management as his $500,000 Indian Premier League contract with the Mumbai Indians was considered under threat.

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