Former South African captain Graeme Smith stands firm on his stance of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement “enormous amount of abuse", including “death threats" following his actions at the 3TC match in July. At that game, former skipper Smith and all everyone present including 24 participating players, match and administrative officials and commentators, took a knee and wore an armband with the BLM logo on it.
At least four former national players - all white – had opposed the gesture in support of BLM while several former players of colour have since gone public with their stories of discrimination, some even during Smith’s stint as captain.
Currently South Africa’s director of cricket, Smith believes some of the outpouring of expression stems from disappointment in how South African society has stagnated almost three decades after democracy.
“It has shocked me how heated things have got. I get that in South Africa we’ve got so many issues and in some ways its felt like we are bearing the brunt for government not having delivered on a number of things over the years and the frustration of that," Smith was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
“You pick up the paper or you click online and you all see all the negativity and the disappointment and the frustration in people’s lives and livelihoods being affected, so it’s been a tough period post that [3TC] game."
A storm had kicked off when South Africa bowler Lungi Ngidi was asked BLM and he said that he’d like to see support against racism. A day later, Pat Symcox, Boeta Dippenaar, Rudi Steyn and Brian McMillan questioned Ngidi’s stance and asked him to show similar consideration for the victims of farm murders. That, in turn, sparked a racially charged conversation that is continuing in cricket circles.
Smith had supported Ngidi, first in a statement on social media, and then at the 3TC match before August 18.
“Lungi, in my mind, said nothing wrong. He expressed an opinion - he didn’t make a statement - and expressed the fact that the team was going to get together and have a conversation and in no right did he deserve to be attacked. What happened to him and the way the guys came at him is entirely wrong," Smith said.
South Africa’s players have since spoken about the BLM movement and are headed to a culture camp at the Kruger National Park this week to discuss team identity, and Smith is pleased with the unity in the ranks.
“Within the space, we’ve handled it extremely maturely. We got together, we listened, the conversation was open, people shared and we decided to support each other in this movement," Smith said.
“That’s what taking a knee meant to us. The fact that we are all together. I haven’t seen the team having such an honest conversation in a few years, which is great."