He took his time until weighing in on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, but Proteas stalwart Faf du Plessis – much like his unbeaten century against Australia in Adelaide 2012 on Test debut for South Africa – on Friday made an emphatic statement to the world.
“I am saying that all lives don’t matter UNTIL black lives matter,” said Du Plessis in an Instagram post.
“I’m speaking up now because if I wait to be perfect, I never will. I want to leave a legacy of empathy.”
Du Plessis joins teammate Lungi Ngidi, 31 former and current SA players who signed a document in support of BLM, Hashim Amla and Anrich Nortje in taking a stand for players of colour in South African cricket.
Ngidi, 24, last week said referring to the first Test between hosts England and the West Indies in Hampshire: “It is beautiful to see every sporting code showing their support to the Black Lives Matter movement. I saw the West Indies had black gloves on,” said Ngidi.
Sporting codes around the world have backed the BLM movement, including the English Premier League.
While the number of players of colour in support of BLM, the lack of white cricketers speaking up has been notable.
Du Plessis made sure to reference how important it was to support BLM as a white player.
“We are surrounded by many injustices in our country that require urgent attention and action to fix them. If we wait only for the ones that attack us personally, we will always live for “my way vs your way” and that way leads us nowhere.”
“I’ve remained silent, with the intent to listen, but not respond. Slowing down my point of view, but quicker to hear the pain of someone else. I knew that words would be lacking and that my understanding is not close to where it needs to be.”
As one of the leaders of the game in South Africa, Du Plessis said it was his duty to work towards eradicating racism from the sport – and society at large.
“I surrender my opinions and take the knee as an intercessor. I acknowledge that South Africa is still hugely divided by racism and it is my personal responsibility to do my best to emphasise, hear the stories, learn and then be part of the solution with my thoughts, words and actions.”
As recently as January this year Du Plessis made headlines when he said: “We don’t see colour and I think it is important that people understand that opportunity is very important, an opportunity for everyone.”
However, Du Plessis now acknowledged how important race was, and still is, in South Africa.
“I have gotten it wrong before. Good intentions were failed by a lack of perspective when I said on a platform that – I don’t see colour. In my ignorance, I silenced the struggles of others by placing my own view on it.
“A race problem is a human race problem, if one part of the body hurts, we all stop, we empathise, we get perspective, we learn and then we tend to the hurting part of the body.”
Du Plessis, now 36, may never hear applause on a cricket field again like he did that day in Adelaide when he saved the Test match against Australia – but he has taken a giant step in the fight against discrimination – and for that he can raise his bat, or fist, once more.
In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo