Solidarity today expressed its dissatisfaction with the remarks of the Minister of Sport, Nathi Mthethwa, in connection with eight South African rugby players who refused to bow their knees in support of the BLM movement during a club match in England.
According to Werner Human, Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Legal Affairs and Research at Solidarity, the Minister has no right to intimidate or victimize players on the basis of their support, or not, of the BLM movement. “Such behavior is completely outside the competence of the minister and infringes on these players’ freedom of speech, beliefs, and religion. In fact, we are not even talking about freedom of expression – the minister is trying to bring about forced expression of speech here. It can never be tolerated. ”
The Sale Sharks’ eight South African players, Rob du Preez (flyhalf), Faf de Klerk (scrumhalf), Dan du Preez (eighthman), Jono Ross (captain and flank), Lood de Jager (lock) , Jean-Luc du Preez (lock), Akker van der Merwe (hooker) and Coenie Oosthuizen (prop), did not bend the knee before their game against Harlequins on Friday night.
However, the players still showed that they were opposed to racism by wearing T-shirts with the words “Rugby Against Racism” on them. Although four players in the starting line-up bowed the knee, Manu Tuilagi – the English international player of Samoan descent – also remained standing. However, Mthethwa was not very happy with this and demanded an explanation for this.
Solidarity has further stated that it will intervene on behalf of any of the eight players targeted by the Minister, as well as any other athletes who are disadvantaged in the practice of their profession due to their refusal to support the BLM movement.
Hennie Bierman, head of the Vocational Guilds division at Solidarity, explains: “No employer can force anyone to support a political movement. Worse, no politician can interfere in the workplace to force an employer to do so. Athletes are already in a particularly vulnerable position with regard to job security. We cannot allow their constitutional rights to be violated either. ”
Human concludes: “For the minister to regard opposition to the BLM movement as racism is absurd. This movement and its harmful precepts and beliefs must be opposed precisely because it has negative consequences for all races. Yet, while we are not willing to bend the knee for BLM, that does not mean we refuse to grant that space to others. What is unacceptable, however, is to victimize players over their own choice in this regard. “