The backlash & support: Inside Lungi Ngidi's Black Lives Matter stance

10 July 2020 - 11:17
By Unathi Nkanjeni
Lungi Ngidi made headlines this week for his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images Lungi Ngidi made headlines this week for his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cricketer Lungi Ngidi's stance on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for solidarity in his team has somehow rubbed up the wrong way those who think otherwise.

The Proteas' fast bowler, who was named SA’s men’s ODI and T20 Cricketer of the Year at Cricket SA’s (CSA's) awards at the weekend, called for his teammates to take a stand against racism the next time they meet.

Around the world, various sportspeople have been seen supporting the movement, with many bending their knees before matches or wearing logos.

Here is what you need to know.

Black Lives Matter

Over the past few weeks, the Black Lives Matter movement struck a deep chord, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. Floyd died on May 25 after being physically restrained by Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

His death sparked a wave of protests in the US and around the world, calling for racial justice and police reform.

Ngidi's comments 

Ngidi, who has been moved and inspired by the recent events since Floyd’s death, said Proteas players have to address what their stance will be when they come together as a team again.

“It's definitely something that we will discuss once we are together in person,” said Ngidi. “As a nation as well, we have a past that is also difficult in terms of racial discrimination and things like that. So, definitely, we will be addressing it as a team. It’s something we have to take seriously and like the rest of the world is doing, take a stand.”

Backing his comment

Ngidi followed up his remarks by retweeting comments made by former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding about racism on Sky News.

In one of the interviews, Holding can be seen fighting back tears as he delivered his anti-racism speech.

“When people say white lives matter or all lives matter, please, we black people know white lives matter,” said Holding. “It is obvious, the evidence is clearly there, that white lives matter. We want black lives to matter now, simple as that.”

Criticism from former cricketers

In a Facebook post, former Proteas batsman Rudi Steyn said he agreed with Ngidi's stance, but felt the issue of farm murders deserved equal coverage.

“I believe the Proteas should make a stand against racism, but if they stand up for 'Black Lives Matter' while ignoring the way white farmers are daily being 'slaughtered' like animals, they have lost my vote,” he said.

Former Proteas players Boeta Dippenaar and Pat Symcox also expressing their criticism in the comments section.

Symcox said Ngidi must stop trying to get the Proteas involved in his belief.

“When Ngidi has his next meal perhaps he would rather consider supporting the farmers of SA who are under pressure right now. A cause worth supporting,” said Symcox.

Speaking to TimesLIVE, they said they stood by what they said in their Facebook posts regarding Ngidi’s statements on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Changing tunes

Taking to Twitter to “clear up the issue”, Symcox said he supports Ngidi's stance. He also shared pictures of himself with black children to prove that he also wants to “eradicate all forms of racism in sport”.

“My own grass roots work done weekly attempts to ensure all get a fair chance,” he said.

“I also believe that all lives matter and right now farmers are critical to us all and need support.”

Standing with Ngidi

The South African Cricketers' Association (Saca) said it stands by the idea of the athlete activist.

According to ESPNcricinfo, Saca's CEO Andrew Breetzke said athlete activism can ultimately lead to institutional change.

“At Saca, we support the concept of the athlete activist. Ultimately, individual activism translates to collective activism and it can lead to institutional change.

“We support Lungi in exercising his right to express his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and we believe the unfair criticism directed at him undermines that right.”