To Quinton De Kock, With Love

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - To Quinton de Kock, with love. Don't love playing for the country so much, love the people you play for more, and show them that love. All of them.

To Quinton De Kock, With LoveDon't love playing for the country so much, love the people you play for more, and show them that love. All of them.

Look who's back. Forty-five hours after he cast South Africa's T20 WC campaign into chaos by pulling out of an important match in defiance of a reasonable directive from his employers, Quinton de Kock recanted.

He did so in a written statement of 682 words in which he said he is now willing to comply as instructed: “If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.”

That's a u-turn from the stance De Kock took on Tuesday in the wake of CSA's board running out of patience for the players to settle on a uniform gesture to signal their support for the global fight against social justice, and ordering them to take a knee. The globally accepted practice hasn't been acceptable to all of South Africa's players, and it's not difficult to see who. All of their black and brown players take a knee. All of the players who remain standing, some with fists raised, are white.

South Africa were under pressure to beat West Indies in Dubai on Tuesday in the wake of losing to Australia in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. But, rather than kneel for a few seconds – like all of his teammates did, apparently as effortlessly as most of the other players at the World Cup have done – then get on with the game, and then revisit the matter with the suits, De Kock not only refused to do so but also withdrew from the XI. He left his team in the ditch. Happily for them, they didn't need him to win by eight wickets.

Forty-five hours on, what had changed? Not a lot, if we take De Kock's statement at face value. But that would be to fail in our duty to interrogate what he wrote.

“I understand the importance of standing against racism, and I also understand the responsibility of us as players to set an example.” Unless De Kock had come to this realisation since Tuesday, he knew that going into the match. And still did what he did. And didn't do. Something doesn't add up.

“I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves.” Not especially the millions of South Africans of all races – the people his playing shirt says he represents – he caused, as he admitted, “hurt, confusion and anger”?

De Kock, who is white, wrote that he has brown half-sisters and a black stepmother. Ergo, “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.”

That could be derided as “some of my best family members are black and brown”. It could also raise questions about how someone who, because of the healthy dose of melanin in his family, should be in tune with what hurts black and brown people. So how can he not get the significance of refusing to take a knee? He should have known that what he didn't do made him a standard-bearer for racists and racism.

Disappointingly, De Kock used his promising indication of social consciousness and the importance of respecting rights to justify his hotheaded – dare we say kneejerk – reaction to the board's decree: “I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told.”

But it seems he has come down off that ledge: “Since our chat with the board [on Wednesday] 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.”

On June 26, Lawson Naidoo, who chairs CSA's board, told Cricbuzz: “Ideally I'd like to see the Proteas take a strong stance as a unified team” on social justice gestures, and that he would “try and persuade them that they need to adapt what they're doing, because visually it doesn't come across well. It sends out a message that there are divisions of approach.”

That was four months – 122 days – before the game against the Windies. How much more time did the players need to get the board's drift? Or did they think, as powerful figures, they could simply ignore the alarm from on high?

There was more from De Kock in that vein: “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.

“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.”

You're an accountant for the world's biggest toothbrush company, representing thousands of households' incomes. Unsurprisingly, you are an ardent believer in maintaining good dental hygiene. Your boss hands you one of the firm's finest and instructs you to stand on the pavement outside your office and brush your teeth in public for 30 seconds. No toothpaste will be involved, so you won't spit onto your shoes. You know it's fakery. But, hey, it's harmless, she's the boss and you believe in this stuff, anyway. Besides, you have a major task waiting on your desk, a job you know you have to do properly for the sake of the company and all your fellow employees. Do you tell the boss to go to hell?

“Those who have grown up with me and played with me know what type of person I am. I am not a racist. In my heart of hearts, I know that. And I think those who know me know that.”

How could De Kock know he isn't racist? As a white person in a white supremacist society, he cannot know what it is to be a victim of racism. Only the black and brown members of that society can know that.

De Kock no doubt knows how not to behave in a racist fashion consciously, but he has no control over what he does unconsciously. Like every other white person, particularly in South Africa and regardless of the end of apartheid, he was born into racism and onto its right side. We were, in effect, born racist. There's nothing we can do about the accident of our birth, but we can do something with the knowledge of the power of that accident.

That means years of work, some of it involving white people discussing and dissecting with other white people the myriad problems white people have created in the world – and doing something about them. At the very least, it means taking a knee when the black, brown and white world is watching us. To not do so is to arm racists' deadly dangerous ideas. As we speak, many of them are vilifying De Kock on social media in the most disgusting ways for daring to spike their guns by changing his mind.

“I know I'm not great with words, but I've tried my best to explain how truly sorry I am for making like this is about me.” Wrong again, but in the right way. De Kock is weirdly wonderful with words. Sometimes he doesn't use many of them, but we can be sure he says what he means and he means what he says. That makes him a media officer's nightmare – they know he is going to tell us how he really feels. A press conference with him is an exercise in talking to a real person.

Clearly, De Kock had help crafting his statement. But that's still his voice ringing through, from the gut and free of cliche. There are holes and clangers in these 682 words, but more than anything else they attest to his authenticity. De Kock isn't claiming to be a flawless person. He is trying to explain his actions and inactions, and to apologise. He can consider all of that done. But there's one more thing.

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

Don't love that so much. Love the people you play for more, and show them that love. All of them.

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