The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the governing body of cricket in England and Wales, has defended its stance on diversity and equality after West Indies great Michael Holding, a Jamaican cricket commentator and former cricketer who played for the West Indies cricket team, criticised England and Australia for not taking a knee in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement during their ongoing limited-overs series.
Specifically, England wore “Black Lives Matter” logos on their shirts during their test series against West Indies and took the knee to protest against racism but opted not to continue the practice in the following series against Pakistan and Australia.
Cricket - Second Test - England v West Indies - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - July 16, 2020 Commentator Michael Holding before the start of play, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Image credit Jon Super/Pool via REUTERS
“Now that the West Indies team has gone home, that doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t be respecting the message and what it stands for,” Holding told to reporters.
“Yes, (racism) is more acute in the United States than in most other places but people around the entire world took on the mantle of spreading the word and getting this message out that it is time for equality and time for equal justice.
“It was no longer just a black versus white thing... so for Pakistan and England not to then take that signal... neither team did it and the ECB came out with a pretty lame statement, as far as I am concerned.”
Before the current series began, Australia skipper Aaron Finch said his team would not take the knee because “education is more important than the protest.”
The ECB, a non-profit organisation which enables it to concentrate on maximising its funding of the sport rather than on making a return for investors whose head offices are at Lord’s Cricket Ground in north-west London, stated in response to former fast bowler Holding’s comments.
“Our response to the Black Lives Matter debate has been to view the issue alongside the whole inclusion and diversity space, to ensure that long-term and sustainable change happens for all communities who are not treated equally,” it declared.
“Our refreshed inclusion and diversity strategy, published at the start of the West Indies series, commits to several comprehensive initiatives that focus on eliminating discrimination from all areas of cricket.
“England’s men’s and women’s players all remain committed to using their reach and influence to keep promoting inclusion and diversity in perpetuity, for the betterment of cricket and sport. We understand the importance of symbolism, and its power to keep an issue high on the agenda. Our goal is to ensure we deliver both reach and change.”
England wore "Black Lives Matter" logos on their shirts during their test series against West Indies and took the knee to protest against racism, but opted not to continue the practice in subsequent series against Pakistan and Australia. Image credit Dhaka Tribune
Holding also responded to Finch’s comments, pointing out that raising awareness and education were both important tools in the fight for equality in every situation, not only when related to sport.
“(Finch) is saying that he’s glad he is part of a sport where no one is barred from playing, irrespective of your race, your gender, your ethnicity, your religion,” Holding added.
“Well, I don’t know any sport where anyone is barred from playing because of anything at all. So that’s a pretty lame statement.”
Nonetheless, Former West Indies skipper Daren Sammy, a Saint Lucian cricketer who played international cricket for the West Indies and who is a two time T20 World Cup-winning captain, has also spoken out in favour of equality, asking cricket’s governing bodies for treating racism more seriously and give it the same attention they give to upholding the integrity of the game. Yet, will this ever be the case?