LONDON (Reuters) - The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has defended its stance on diversity and equality after West Indies great Michael Holding criticised England and Australia for not taking a knee in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement during their ongoing limited-overs series.
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.
“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 Sky Sports.
“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 issued a statement 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 read.
“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.”
Holding took issue with Finch’s comments, saying that raising awareness and education were both important tools in the fight for equality.
“(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.”
Former West Indies skipper Daren Sammy has also spoken out in favour of equality, urging cricket’s governing bodies to treat racism more seriously and pay it the same attention they give to upholding the integrity of the game.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru and Martyn Herman; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Toby Davis
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