Timeline: How Lungi Ngidi's stance on Black Lives Matter shook SA sport in 2020

28 December 2020 - 15:00
By unathi nkanjeni AND Unathi Nkanjeni
Lungi Ngidi's comments about support for the Black Lives Matter movement sparked fierce debate on social media, with a number of former Proteas players getting involved.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images Lungi Ngidi's comments about support for the Black Lives Matter movement sparked fierce debate on social media, with a number of former Proteas players getting involved.

Cricketer Lungi Ngidi's stance on the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for solidarity in his team and the sporting industry at large was something that sparked a lot of debate this year.

Here's a timeline of how it began:

What Ngidi said

In July, Ngidi reflected on SA's history of racial discrimination and called for his teammates to take a stand against racism.

This was after he was named the country's men's one-day international and T20 cricketer of the year at Cricket SA’s (CSA's) awards

“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,” he said.

Ngidi followed up his remarks by retweeting former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding's comments about racism and why the Black Lives Matter movement is important.

The criticism

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.

Steyn suggested that the 24-year-old should be discussing farm murders in addition to the Black Live Matter movement.

“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.

Echoing Steyn's statement, former Proteas player Boeta Dippenaar said Black Lives Matter was nothing more than a “leftist political movement”.

“I am afraid to say 'Black Lives Matter' has become nothing more than a leftist political movement.

“I would suggest that Lungi Ngidi listens a bit more to the likes of Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Walter Williams and Milton Friedman.

“All lives matter. If you want me to stand shoulder to shoulder with you Lungi then stand shoulder to shoulder with me with regards to farm attacks,” he added.

Another former Proteas player Pat Symcox also weighed in, saying Ngidi must take his own stand and not get the “Proteas involved in his belief”.

“What nonsense is this. He must take his own stand if he wishes. Stop trying to get the Proteas involved in his belief,” Symcox said.

“Besides the fact that right now Cricket SA should be closed down. A proper dog-and-pony show with cricket being dragged through the mud daily. Buy popcorn and watch.

“Now 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,” Symcox added.

However, after catching heat from the masses, Symcox took to Twitter to “clear up the issue”, and said he supports Ngidi's stance of eradicating all forms of racism in sport.

Makhaya Ntini supports Ndigi

The former cricketers' comments sparked a debate and many, including former and current sportsmen, backed Ngidi.

Legendary Proteas cricketer Makhaya Ntini said the mindset in cricket needed to be reset.

Ntini told SABC that the lingering racism in cricket should be tackled and that he fully supported Ngidi and the Black Lives Matter movement.

He said transformation was needed in the sport and expressed gratitude for the Black Lives Matter movement and players who have spoken out, saying “now is the right time” to call for change.

Siya Kolisi speaks up

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi added his voice to the conversation, after fans questioned his silence.

In a video on Instagram, Kolisi said black lives matter on and off the sporting field.

“If my suffering and my pain does not affect you, then we're not actually stronger together. Black lives matter.

“I've failed as a leader because of being silent, but that's over. I will speak, even if it is going to cost me my place. It doesn't matter because the next generation can't suffer like we did,” he said.

Tendai Mtawarira says it's time to address the 'elephant in the room'

Retired Springbok rugby player Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira said transformation in sport would only come about after the “elephant in the room” was addressed.

Mtawarira said now was the “pivotal moment” to have uncomfortable conversations that would allow the nation to grow.

“I really feel that, in this time, we're at a crossroads and a pivotal moment where we have to make a decision,” he said.

“There are certain things we might have endured in the past and we have to bring them to light because for us to move forward, we have to address the big elephant in the room.

“We have to bring about those conversations that will bring discomfort to everybody but that will allow us to grow. I feel the decisions that we make today will impact the future of our kids and the next generation.”

Criticism not surprising, but disappointing

Former Proteas bowling coach and Cricket SA high-performance manager Vincent Barnes said he was impressed by Ngidi's response, and that he should not pay those who disagree any mind.

“Not once did he say that other people or other lives don’t matter,” said Barnes.

“I know this young man very well and believe me, everyone matters. I agree — black lives matter.”

Barnes also said the argument from Steyn, Dippenaar and Symcox was not surprising but rather “typical and predictable”, and not worth losing sleep over.

Saca stands with Ngidi

The South African Cricketers' Association (Saca) said it stood by Ngidi.

“Freedom of expression is an enabling right that all South Africans support,” said Saca CEO Andrew Breetzke.

“As Saca CEO I lead a diverse group of players and I stand with Lungi in my commitment to transformation, diversity, and to continue to work towards building a more inclusive game and society.”