CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African cricket player Quinton de Kock will take a knee after all.
De Kock apologized Thursday to teammates and supporters for refusing to play in a T20 World Cup game, but said he felt his rights were “taken away” when players were told they must take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Compelling someone to take a knee also ”takes away the meaning,” he said.
But de Kock said he was now “more than happy” to take a knee ahead of future games “if me taking a knee helps to educate others, and make the lives of others better.”
The wicketkeeper-batsman, a former captain and one of South Africa’s star players, made himself unavailable for Tuesday’s game against the West Indies after a directive from the country’s cricket board that morning ordered all its players to take a knee before games. De Kock withdrew from the game while the other South African players took a knee before the start, including some who hadn’t previously performed the gesture.
In a statement, de Kock said he did not mean to offend anyone but was “shocked” at the directive.
“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.
Cricket South Africa issued the order a few hours before the crucial game in Dubai after previously saying players could choose their own way to show support for the anti-racism movement.
“I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves,” de Kock said. “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.
South Africa’s multiracial cricket team had previously taken a disparate approach to taking a knee: Some kneeled with their fists raised, some stood with their fists raised, while some white players, including de Kock, have previously stood with their hands by their side or behind their backs for the moment.
Those players’ actions provoked accusations that they did not support the anti-racism movement. De Kock has previously been asked why he doesn’t simply take a knee if he’s against racism and has replied it’s for personal reasons, but said he now felt he had to clarify his position.
De Kock denied accusations in the aftermath of Tuesday’s controversy that he was racist, explaining “for those who don’t know” that he comes from a mixed-race family. His step mother is Black and his half-sisters are mixed-race.
“For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement,” de Kock said. “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,” de Kock added. “I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer … 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.”
De Kock said he and his teammates had “emotional” conversations with members of the Cricket South Africa board on Wednesday and “I think we all have a better understanding of their intentions as well.”
There had been speculation that de Kock would be called back from the World Cup but he said he was willing to continue playing for South Africa if captain Temba Bavuma and the team “will have me.”
South Africa’s next World Cup game is against Sri Lanka on Saturday.