The cricket world was left speechless after two legends of the game, West Indian icon Michael Holding and England cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent, revealed the heartbreaking toll racism has taken on the pair.
The Sky Sports pundits combined in a ‘Black Cricketers Matter’ movement to end racism within the game on a day that saw the West Indies and England squads take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
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The legendary fast-bowler and commentator recounted his first experience of racism, while playing cricket, which happened in his first tour of Australia.
“I went to Australia on my very first tour, 75-76, I had never experienced racism while on the cricket field...but I heard comments being passed [from the crowd] and I just thought, ‘these people are sick,’” Holding said on Sky Sports.
"If you don't educate people, they'll keep growing up in that sort of society and you'll not get meaningful change."— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) July 8, 2020
Michael Holding and @ejrainfordbrent say that institutionalised racism must be eradicated for the good of humanity. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/TIpdAcdZJI
Holding said the very same thing happened during his time in England the following tour and racism became a reoccurring scar throughout his career.
The icon then went on to talk about how the George Floyd experience impacted him and explained how institutional racism must be eradicated before humanity can move forward together.
“Everybody has heard about this lady in a park in America who was asked by a black man to put her dog on a leash, which is the law,” Holding said.
“She threatened this black man with her whiteness, saying that she was going to call the police and tell them there was a black man threatening her.
“If the society in which she was living did not empower her or get her to think that she had that power of being white and being able to call the police on a black man, she would not have done it.
“It was an automatic reaction because of the society in which she lives. If you don’t educate people they will keep growing up in that sort of society and you will not get meaningful change.”
‘We need honest conversations’: Rainford-Brent
Rainford-Brent, a former international player and now director of women’s cricket at Surrey, broke down when she alleged she had been subjected to racism in team environments.
“I’ve been in team environments, dealing constantly with people referring to ‘your lot,’” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I questioned myself why I stayed sometimes so long, I love the game, I think it has so much more to offer.
“But it can be really difficult dealing with that day in day out.”
She also called for a change in the way society approaches racism and education.
“It can’t be a ‘black person’s problem’, it has got to be everyone’s problem. We have got to want a society that is representative and supports people from different backgrounds,” she said.
“That’s what it is for me. We need honest conversations, opportunities and people in positions of power. And then we can change the landscape.”
Fans jumped on social media to praise the pair for such an empowering call to action in the Black Lives Matter movement.
That’s the most powerful half an hour of TV I’ve seen for a long, long time.— Robin Chipperfield (@sportchippers) July 8, 2020
The Michael Holding story about the invention of the filament light bulb was extraordinary.
Fantastic work @SkyCricket
And it continues, Mikey given the space to discuss generational injustice, on the cusp of breaking down as he concludes. There's never been anything like this on a cricket broadcast before. Remarkable television, @SkyCricket. This is what making a big statement looks like.— Adam Collins (@collinsadam) July 8, 2020
That piece by Sky Sports at the top of the cricket by @ejrainfordbrent and Michael Holding was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen on a cricket broadcast. Very confronting. Well done. @SkyCricket— Peter Lalor (@plalor) July 8, 2020
It is as important to listen to Michael Holding as it is to read some of the comments underneath this. We have a long way to go. https://t.co/966rTwPEwK— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) July 8, 2020
This is an incredible start to the series between England & West Indies. Michael Holding - legend on and off the field, delivering the most profound statement about racism - something I've NEVER seen in a sports broadcast. Astonishing. https://t.co/11D2ITRq45— Joe Stilgoe (@joestilgoe) July 8, 2020
This conversation has never, ever (to my recollection) been part of a cricket coverage. That it was last night hopefully tells us something. Hopefully people listened. Bravo to you Michael Holding and the producers who said yes. https://t.co/C2T8iqstUd— Andy Maher (@AndyMaherDFA) July 8, 2020
England and West Indies take a knee
England and West Indies players took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before the start of play in the first Test at Southampton as international cricket returned after a four-month absence on Wednesday.
Moments before the first ball was bowled at an empty Rose Bowl, West Indies' fielding players knelt in the outfield while their England counterparts did the same around the field.
A Black Lives Matter logo also was on the collar of the test shirts worn by players from both teams for the match played in a strict isolated environment and following repeated testing of players and staff members.
The West Indies squad has said the movement, which has grown since the killing of Floyd in the United States in May, has been a source of motivation on this tour.