New Delhi: The first international match of cricket since the games stopped due to the outbreak of the pandemic delivered a message loud and clear – black lives matter.
At Southampton, on what was a rainy restart to the sport, players and support staff of West Indies and England (along with match officials) took the knee as a symbolic show of solidarity against racism and police brutality.
Most of the West Indies players wore a single black glove and raised their fist, BBC and The Telegraph in London have reported. The move is a strong reminder of John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture on the dais as they won medals for the 200m sprint at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
The cricketers join several of their counterparts in other sports across the world, who have knelt in support of protesters in the US who have taken to the streets calling for reforms in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the hands of Minneapolis police.
In an interview to Sky Cricket during the Southampton match, the legendary West Indian pace bowler Michael Holding spoke passionately the legacy of the dehumanisation to which black people had historically been subject to:
Holding’s greatest spell (and that’s saying something) pic.twitter.com/pkXKunHiNj
— Jarrod Kimber (@ajarrodkimber) July 8, 2020
The practice of taking a knee – usually to an anthem during which you are ideally meant to stand – to protest racism, predates Floyd’s murder. In 2016, American quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the gesture famous by taking the knee against racially motivated police oppression during the US anthem.
Kaepernick’s action was then criticised by a large section of Americans including the Vice-President Mike Pence and President Trump.
As sports makes a comeback after lockdowns and temporary suspensions across the world, Kaepernick’s gesture has found resonance among personalities of several sports. In England, English Premier League players took a knee in jerseys that had ‘Black Lives Matter’ written on them instead of their names. In Germany, Bundesliga footballers also took a knee in addition to sporting shirts with clear messages of support to the Black Lives Matter movement on them.
At the Austrian Grand Prix, Formula One drivers all wore shirts emblazoned with ‘End Racism’. Fourteen of the 20 drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, the only black F1 driver, took the knee.
At the NASCAR race in early June, a black technical inspector, race official and army veteran took the knee in what became the first symbolic protest in sport on American soil since the demonstrations broke out.
Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR which is a white bastion, also received symbolic show of support from white drivers before a race – only to be told off in a tweet by Donald Trump for dramatising his experiences with racism.