Kagiso Rabada has said the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement "will always be relevant" to him even though South Africa will not take a knee in their upcoming white-ball series against England. Instead, the squad, who will play together for the first time since March, are considering wearing black armbands in solidarity with the fight against gender-based violence and to mourn the lives lost to Covid_19.
South Africa's head coach, Mark Boucher, last week described BLM as "an ongoing thing for us, not something that we have to continue to show". Rabada said it would remain part of the conversation, even if it is not front-and-centre of their actions.
"Black Lives Matter is one-hundred percent something I will always stand for and I speak for myself," Rabada said. "It was a team decision not to kneel and to look at gender-based violence and devote ourselves to another cause. However, Black Lives Matter will always be relevant and something I will always believe in and I speak for myself there. But, Mark has stated that the team will not be kneeling and that's how it's going to be."
Boucher said the South Africa squad believed they already showed their support for BLM when they took a knee at the exhibition 3TC match in July, following weeks of fractious debates on race in the country. All the players involved in that fixture are part of the squad that will play England and Boucher said of one of them, Lungi Ngidi, who led South Africa's response to BLM, was satisfied that the team has done enough.
According to Boucher, South Africa will now concentrate on living out values of anti-racism rather than demonstrate them with on-field gestures, even though they have not played together as a national team since the BLM movement resurged over the winter.
In South Africa, the rhetoric around BLM was particularly divisive and exposed the recently papered-over cracks that have resulted from decades of legalised racial discrimination. After Ngidi expressed his wish that South African players join the rest of the world in "making a stand" in support of BLM, four former players, all white, criticised him, prompting an outpouring of stories of exclusion from players of colour. CSA has set up a social justice and nation-building committee to address historical injustices but has recently made no other public statements about anti-racist action or transformation, including its plans for reparations.
The conversation around BLM appears to have shifted from collective to individual action, which Rabada remains in favour of. During the IPL, he spoke about the responsibility that high-profile people, including sportsmen, have to raise awareness over social issues and he reiterated that belief.
"It is important, especially if you have a platform like you do as a sportsman - spreading the right message is important. It doesn't mean anyone should go out of their way to do it but if you would like to, it's important to spread the right message," Rabada said. "There is huge responsibility in the things you say and the things you stand up for. We've seen the roles sportsmen had to play in all the political movements that were happening during the lockdown. I expressed my opinion on Twitter, and on some podcasts that we did but I am not getting into it too hectically. I am not writing essays about it, I am not writing a doctorate about it but I threw my two cents out."
When asked whether he thought the debate needed to move from whether a team should take a knee as a symbolic gesture, to whether they could better tackle racism in practical ways because repeated taking of a knee diminishes its significance, Rabada said he would "need to think about it".