A remark about Black Lives Matter in a Zoom press conference has made South Africa's one-day and Twenty20 international cricketer of the year Lungi Ngidi the centre of controversy echoing the country's uncomfortable recent past.
Bowler Ngidi, 24, said he believed his team-mates should make a stand the next time the squad meets.
"It's definitely something that we will discuss once we are together in person," said Ngidi.
"We have spoken about it and everyone is well aware of what's going on. It's a difficult one because we are not together, so it's hard to discuss. But once we get back to playing that is definitely something we have to address as a team."
Ngidi pointed to South Africa's history of racial discrimination which included decades of segregation across all levels of society.
"It's something that we need to take very seriously and, like the rest of the world is doing, make a stand."
Ngidi followed up his remarks by retweeting an extract of former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding's impassioned comments about racism at the ongoing first Test between England and the West Indies.
However, former Proteas Test players Pat Symcox and Boeta Dippenaar were among several who criticised Ngidi.
Both Symcox and Dippenaar raised the emotive issue of a recent spate of murders in which several farmers, mainly white, have been killed, sometimes in brutal circumstances.
To clear up the issue - I too support @NgidiLungi stance of eradicating all forms of racism in sport. My own grassroots work done weekly attempts to ensure all get a fair chance. I also believe that ALL Lives matter and right now Farmers are critical to us All and need support pic.twitter.com/K9epB18wAW— Pat Symcox (@PatSymcox77) July 9, 2020
"When Ngidi has his next meal perhaps he would rather consider supporting the farmers of South Africa who are under pressure right now. A cause worth supporting," tweeted Symcox.
- 'Leftist movement' -
Dippenaar said he believed Black Lives Matter had become a "leftist political movement."
He added: "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."
Symcox also praised Holding for his forthright comments on racism but that didn't prevent him and Dippenaar being castigated on social media.
Vince van der Bijl, a former fast bowler and ex-International Cricket Council umpiring chief, supported Ngidi.
"I stand alongside Lungi Ngidi in BLM," he wrote on Facebook.
"I really believe we as cricketers have it in us to help heal these great divides in privilege, race, religion and attitudes."
South Africa one-day spin bowler Tabraiz Shamsi also tweeted his support for Ngidi.
"I am right behind you," he said.
@NgidiLungi I am right behind you boy!— Tabraiz Shamsi (@shamsi90) July 9, 2020
You said NOTHING wrong!
Black, white or brown... NO ONE should be treated with hatred, cruelty or differently based on their skin colour#BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter ❤#Peace ✌#LungiNgidi
Cricket South Africa director of cricket Graeme Smith said the organisation was discussing "various ways of handling" the race issue but said no Black Lives Matter logo would be on the shirts for a lockdown-ending three-team match on July 18 because the kits had already been printed.
Later Thursday, Cricket South Africa chief executive Jacques Faul said: “Black Lives Matter. It is as simple as that.
In a statement, he added: "As a national sporting body representing more than 56 million South Africans and with the privileged position of owning a platform as large as we do, it is of vital importance that we use our voice to educate and listen to others on topics involving all forms of discrimination."
Faul said South African cricket's return from COVID-19 lockdown on July 18 – late president Nelson Mandela's birthday – would be used to spread the message of anti-racism and all forms of violence.
The statement did not refer to Ngidi by name.
Symcox tweeted later on Thursday afternoon that he supported Ngidi's stance on eradicating racism.
His tweet included images of him working with young black cricketers, which he said he did every week.
"My own grassroots work done weekly attempts to ensure all get a fair chance. I also believe that ALL lives matter and right now farmers are critical to us all and need support."
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain