South African cricket has been rocked after head coach Mark Boucher apologised for singing offensive songs and using a racist nickname during his playing days.
The cricket world was stunned after Boucher responded to allegations levelled against him by ex-teammate Paul Adams during a South African hearing into racial discrimination.
Former spinner Adams last month said at Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings that he was subjected to racial discrimination and name-calling during his time with the national team.
While Boucher denied giving Adams the racist moniker, he did “apologise unreservedly for any offensive conduct, real or perceived” in an affidavit submitted to the SJN committee on Monday.
While at the time we thought it was playful banter within a team environment in which we all participated… I deeply regret and apologise for the part I played by joining in with my team-mates in singing offensive songs or using offensive nicknames,” former wicket-keeper Boucher said in the 14-page affidavit.
“We, the team, coaching staff, selectors and CSA… should have been more sensitive and created an environment where all members of the team could raise and talk about these issues without allowing them to fester.”
Boucher said he would prefer to deal “one-on-one” with any specific allegations raised.
The allegation involved adapting, in allegedly offensive fashion, the lyrics of a Boney M song ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’ and sung it at spin bowler Paul Adams during a team fines meetings.
Boucher said for much of his playing career he had been in charge at fines meetings, which usually happened after a series win.
They were “light-hearted with lots of laughter, singing and ribbing of teammates.”
He said he did not know who had initiated the Boney M song insulting Adams but acknowledged that what was seen at the time as playful banter was “totally inappropriate”.
Boucher claimed he was never addressed about how to deal with the legacy of apartheid when entering the team as a 21-year-old in 1997.
“To my certain knowledge there had not been any briefing or discussion by Cricket South Africa as to how we deal with the legacy of apartheid,” he said, “and how we ensure that there is equality, respect empathy and inclusiveness in the team.”
He added the current South Africa team was “now in an entirely different space” following “meaningful workshops and discussions about how to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness and a culture of respect”.
However, Boucher did hit back at media reports suggesting “an implicit insinuation” that he was a racist.
He said these allegations had traumatised him and his family.
Skipper Temba Bavuma confirmed that Boucher – who played 147 Tests and 295 one-day internationals for the Proteas – had spoken to the team, providing “clarity and context” on the charges against him.
South Africa travel to Sri Lanka for three ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals next month, with the tour starting in Colombo on September 2.