South Africa’s Quinton de Kock has apologised after refusing to take a knee and says he is “not a racist”.
The wicketkeeper-batsman made himself unavailable for the T20 World Cup win against West Indies because he did not want to make the gesture.
“I would like to start by saying sorry to my team-mates, and the fans back home,” he said.
“If me taking a knee helps to educate others, and makes the lives of others better, I am more than happy to do so.”
Some South Africa players – but not all – took a knee before the defeat by Australia in their T20 World Cup opener, when De Kock scored seven.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) then issued a directive shortly before the match on Tuesday against the Windies that all players should take a knee.
“I did not, in any way, mean to disrespect anyone by not playing against West Indies, especially the West Indian team themselves,” added De Kock.
“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.”
He added: “I’ve been called a lot of things as a cricketer. 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.
“I am not a racist. In my heart of hearts, I know that. And I think those who know me know that.”
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What is taking the knee and why is it important?
De Kock has previously declined to take a knee and, while he said he had been “quiet on this very important issue until now”, he felt the need to “explain myself a little bit”.
In a statement from CSA on behalf of De Kock, he said he came from a dual-heritage family and that his stepmother is black.
“For me, black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement,” said De Kock.
“The rights and equality of all people is more important than any individual.
“I was raised to understand that we all have rights, and they are important.
“I felt like my rights were taken away when I was told what we had to do in the way that we were told.
“I think it would of been better for everyone concerned if we had sorted this out before the tournament started.
“Then we could have focused on our job, to win cricket matches for our country.
“There always seems to be a drama when we go to World Cups. That isn’t fair.”
CSA board chairman Lawson Naidoo defended the timing of telling South Africa’s players to take a knee.
“Unfortunately, we can’t choose the time when we have to deal with these things. The situation is what it is,” said Naidoo.
“We felt that, despite being in the middle of the tournament, it was the right thing to do, and it was the right thing for the team to do.”
South Africa’s next game is against Sri Lanka on Saturday, 30 October and De Kock says he “would love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again” if captain Temba Bavuma, who he called an “amazing leader”, and the team “will have me”.