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The Project host Waleed Aly says much of the blame for the Quinton de Kock controversy lies with Cricket South Africa and not the player, after the wicketkeeper-batsman released a detailed three-page apology and explanation for refusing to take a knee at the T20 World Cup.
De Kock on Thursday apologised to teammates and supporters for refusing to play in a T20 World Cup game and said he felt his rights were "taken away" when players were told they must take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, just hours before the game.
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The Proteas star added that he will be happy to take the knee for the remainder of South Africa's games, as per the team directive.
The 28-year-old said he was sorry about the incident that sparked backlash around the world and insisted he is not racist - explaining that Black lives have always mattered to him because his step-mother is Black and he comes from a mixed-race family.
The wicketkeeper-batsman made himself unavailable for Tuesday's game against West Indies after a directive from the country's cricket board ordered all its players take a knee before World Cup games.
In a statement, de Kock said he did not mean to offend anyone but "I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told."
Cricket South Africa (CSA) issued the order just a few hours before the game in Dubai having previously said they could choose their own way to show their support for the anti-racism movement.
"I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves," de Kock said.
"Maybe some people don't understand that we were just hit with this on Tuesday morning, on the way to a game.
"I am deeply sorry for all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused. If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so," he said.
CSA welcomed De Kock's apology and commitment to taking the knee going forwards.
Speaking about the controversy on Thursday night's edition of The Project, Aly said a "stuff-up" on Cricket South Africa's part in communicating their directive to players, was chiefly to blame.
When @Tonaaayy_ heard that South African cricketer Quinton de Kock refused to take the knee before a game, he 'saw red'. However, as the whole story & apology came out today, Tony wants to remind everyone why Black Lives Matter is still a worthy cause. pic.twitter.com/YSSnnkFzJg
— The Project (@theprojecttv) October 28, 2021
"The bit that’s really interesting about the statement to me is he (De Kock) said, 'we had a chat with the board last night which was very emotional and I think that we all have a better understanding of the intentions,'" Aly said.
“And this is where the stuff-up was clearly. They (CSA) sprung it on them. There was no conversation and suddenly he’s meant to process this and take on something that the game or Cricket South Africa and a statement that they want to make as his own personal one.
“Yeah, if I was in his position, I’m taking the knee. But I can kind of understand why it would trip a wire. It’s a really weird situation for a player to be put in.”
De Kock's refusal to play over the Black Lives Matter gesture sparked fierce reaction in South Africa, where issues of race and racism are constantly in the headlines because of the country's history of forced segregation under the apartheid regime, which ended in 1994.
Quinton de Kock insists he is not racist
South Africa's multiracial cricket team had previously taken a disparate approach to taking a knee: Some kneeled with their fists raised, some stood with their fists raised, while a small group, including de Kock, have stood with hands by their side or behind their backs.
Those players' actions in not kneeling provoked accusations that they did not support the anti-racism movement.
De Kock denied that in his statement, explaining he came from a mixed-race family himself. He said his half-sisters are Coloured, a term in South Africa for people with a mixed-race heritage, and his step mother is Black.
"For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement," de Kock said. "I didn't understand why I had to prove it with a gesture, when I live and learn and love people from all walks of life every day. When you are told what to do, with no discussion, I felt like it takes away the meaning.
"If I was racist, I could easily have taken the knee and lied, which is wrong and doesn't build a better society.
"I've been called a lot of things as a cricketer ... Stupid. Selfish. Immature. But those didn't hurt. Being called a racist because of a misunderstanding hurts me deeply. It hurts my family. It hurts my pregnant wife."
Speaking as a guest host on The Project, ABC TV's Tony Armstrong - who had initially suggested that De Kock's stance was motivated by racism - was forced to backtrack on his comments.
“I’m so glad that Quinton’s come out and said what he said because I think what he might not have realised in the moment was just what it means to so many people. And he has, within the statement, explained that he comes from a mixed race family. He’s explained that he’s grown up understanding that black lives matter all the time, not just when it’s cool. And he goes on to explain that he does regret not taking a knee, because I mean I was seeing red by the end of News Breakfast. I really was...
“I questioned, I guess, how racist do you have to be to not want to do the bare minimum by taking a knee? And that was just you know, that was a mistake on my behalf in hindsight. But in the moment, that was exactly how I felt because I saw a lack of support for that movement and for that moment. And while it’s such a little thing, it clearly goes such a long way," Armstrong said.
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