England’s pre-match “moment of unity” has drawn scorn from Michael Holding, who believes the gesture is akin to saying “all lives matter” and sits in stark contrast to the backbone shown by Gareth Southgate’s footballers.
The visit of New Zealand has seen Joe Root’s players line up before both Test matches wearing T-shirts that carry an array of different anti-discrimination slogans, having last summer moved away from taking a knee for the Black Lives Matter message following the departure of the West Indies side.
This was in part fuelled by supposed concerns about the politicisation of BLM but for Holding, whose powerful testimony at the Ageas Bowl last year drew widespread praise and has since seen Sky subsequently win a host of broadcasting awards, any such link is irrelevant.
Speaking to Sky cricket on the second day of the Edgbaston Test, Holding said: “When you hear people saying BLM is Marxist, some of those people don’t even know who Karl Marx is or what he stood for. But they tell you that because they are trying to pull down the movement of BLM.
“I have no idea who started the political movement or who started the website. I care about the three words: Black. Lives. Matter. I’m going to go further with this England team. What they are doing now with this ‘moment of unity’, that is not supporting Black Lives Matter. Don’t tell me that’s supporting Black Lives Matter. Because what you are doing there is, when I say Black Lives Matter, you are telling me all lives matter.”
England’s footballers have pledged to continue taking a knee during Euro 2020 despite boos from their own supporters in recent times. Holding, who has written an upcoming book on racism called Why We Kneel, How We Rise, is full of praise here.
He added: “[Manager] Gareth Southgate and the England team, I applaud them. They’re getting a lot of stick for taking a knee, they are getting booed. But they are showing some backbone.
“They are showing some intestinal fortitude, to say ‘OK, but we are still doing it because we know what we’re doing. We are not doing it for the political movement, we are doing it for humanitarian reasons.’”
The criticism of English cricket comes at an acute time. Ollie Robinson is currently awaiting possible sanction for offensive tweets sent in 2012 and 2013, while questionable posts from other England players are also being assessed.
Azeem Rafiq is still awaiting the outcome of a probe into his allegations of racism at Yorkshire and, separate to this, is taking the club to an employment tribunal next Wednesday with a claim for discrimination and harassment on the grounds of race.
On Friday it also emerged Lancashire are looking into “more than 50 tweets” from five squad members that date back to 2011 and, according to the Lancashire Telegraph, contain “racist, homophobic, anti-disability or misogynistic content”.
Daniel Gidney, the Lancashire chief executive, said: “We abhor all forms of discrimination which, as a club, we find totally unacceptable. We are currently undertaking an immediate review and investigation and the relevant information has been referred to the England and Wales Cricket Board.”
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