Proteas coach Mark Boucher apologises for 'racist taunts'
Embattled Proteas coach Mark Boucher has apologised for his involvement in racial taunts aimed at black former national team teammates with a written response to the allegations of racism, perceived or real, levelled against him.
Boucher’s future as the national team coach is increasingly questioned by each passing day after the coach was adversely mentioned in disturbing testimony at Cricket SA’s (CSA's) transformation hearings last month, with former teammate Paul Adams saying Boucher was among a group of white players who called him “brown shit”.
On the eve of the Proteas trip to Colombo for three ODIs and three T20s against Sri Lanka from September 2 to 14, Boucher’s 14-page affidavit was released to the public through the media on Monday, two days before the Proteas jet off to the island nation.
“I’m disposing this affidavit as a consequence of and in response to various statements made by some of my former teammates about their experiences as black African and African players, and more particularly their experiences of me as a white teammate, which statements were made both in written submissions to and in verbal testimony before the Social Justice and Nation Building project (SJN) hearings,” Boucher starts his written response.
“I will in due course and once the hearings have been concluded submit a complimentary affidavit in which I will deal with specific allegations that may be made during the course of the hearings.”
Boucher said he “deeply regrets and apologises for the part I played in joining in with my teammates in singing offensive songs or using offensive nicknames.”
Boucher agrees Adams was called “brown shit” but denied that it was he who came up with the name.
“I can categorically say that I did not give Mr Adams the name ‘brown shit’. I don’t know who gave him the name.”
Boucher asked to be afforded an opportunity to discuss the allegations “one-on-one” directly with his former teammates that he has offended.
“I am deeply concerned and, indeed, hurt by some of the testimony and wish to address these concerns with the individuals concerned in person.
“I have listened to the hurt some of my former teammates felt, the feeling of exclusion and some totally unacceptable and inappropriate examples of alleged racism that they endured.
“I apologise unreservedly for any offensive conduct, real or perceived, that has been attributed to me.
“We, the team, coaching staff, selectors and CSA, during the period in question, should have been more sensitive and created an environment where all members of the team could raise and talk about these issues without allowing them to fester, as they clearly have.”
Boucher made his debut as a 20-year-old in Pakistan in 1997 and went on to represent the Proteas for 15 years, playing 147 Test matches and 320 limited-overs games until his retirement in 2012 due to an unfortunate eye injury.
Boucher said, in 1997 when the country was fresh from having moved from apartheid rule, he was “naive” at the time when the alleged discriminatory and exclusionary conduct was inflicted on players of colour.
“I was a young man, barely out of my teens. In hindsight, we were all naive; the players, the coaches, the management.
“We were not only naive but ill-equipped to deal with the new environment in which we found ourselves. It was six years after SA’s readmission into international cricket and five years after Omar Henry [the first black player to represent the Proteas] had been selected to play for the Proteas,” Boucher said.
The Proteas' boss said, to his knowledge, there had not been any briefings or discussions by CSA as to how to deal with the legacy of apartheid.
“There was no guidance, no culture discussions, no open forums and no-one appointed by CSA to deal with the awkwardness or questions or pressures that were being experienced by the players and, in particular, by the players of colour.”
Captain Temba Bavuma, during his departure press conference ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka, confirmed that Boucher had spoken to the team, providing “clarity and context” on the charges against him.