There was always going to be so much more to the Quinton de Kock story.
By refusing to take a knee with his teammates at a T20 World Cup match as mandated by Cricket South Africa (CSA), preferring instead to sit out the game altogether, there were signs that something was up.
To ask, “how racist can you be,” or to suggest, “Quinton de Kock would not understand the enormity of the furore he has created,” was too simplistic, a much too early rush to judgment.
Even before de Kock issued a moving and detailed three-page apology none of the pieces of this puzzle matched the picture some were trying to paint.
Nobody could point to any racist incident de Kock had been part of. Teammates of every colour, friends of every shade, declared he was not the racist he was being branded.
The captain who replaced him as leader of the Proteas Temba Bavuma told a press conference after the match, “we respect his decision, we respect his convictions”.
These are not the words of a black man offended.
The day before de Kock’s apology was given CSA chairman Lawson Naidoo told The Ticket punishment was not likely.
“This is not about threatening players or imposing sanctions or penalties against them,” he said.
Again, the tone of conciliation was in stark contrast to those calling for blood.
It took a day longer than expected but de Kock’s lengthy and detailed apology once released revealed a deeply personal story that would have momentarily silenced his critics, at least those who bothered to read that far.
It was not how the apology began, “by saying sorry to my teammates, and the fans back home”.
Nor how it continued, “I am deeply sorry for all the hurt, confusion and anger that I have caused”.
But as his thoughts and words began to flow, came this:
“For those who don’t know, I come from a mixed-race family.”
Its simplicity belies the complexity surrounding de Kock’s decision not to take a knee and the 48-hour firestorm that followed.
“My half-sisters are Coloured and my step-mom is Black.”
Like a gong hit once, this is a statement that reverberates.
Perhaps only those who have lived through the cruel, inhumane apartheid system that South Africa once was can fully understand the gravity of that declaration and all the real-life challenges it would have once meant.
“For me, Black lives have mattered since I was born. Not just because there was an international movement,” de Kock wrote.
This revelation will have shocked many. Here is a man who captained his country in all three forms of the game without once being viewed as a person with a family history that was anything other than white.
Now what will they see? Now how will they judge him?
He has not previously felt the need to discuss, what is essentially, a private matter.
But when Cricket South Africa told the players, “you will take a knee” as a show of unity, it’s not hard to imagine the emotional storm that must have been brewing inside South Africa’s 28-year-old batting and wicketkeeping star.
“I didn’t understand why I had to prove it with a gesture when I live, and learn, and love people from all walks of life every day,” his apology read.
“I won’t lie, I was shocked that we were told on the way to an important match that there was an instruction that we had to follow, with a perceived ‘or else’. I don’t think I was the only one.
“We had camps. We had sessions. We had zoom meetings. We know where we all stand. And that is together. I love every one of my teammates, and I love nothing more than playing cricket for South Africa.”
Perhaps, without even realising it, de Kock’s apology is a mirror we all need to take a look into.
How quickly we judged. How quickly we criticised. How quickly we saw something that wasn’t there … a racist act, a privileged choice, a selfish act of defiance.
It was none of the above.
It was a cricketer with a complicated family history, from a country that only recently gave up its racist laws.
There was a time when the de Kock’s, as a family, would not all have been welcomed at the same restaurants, hotels or beaches.
While the laws may have changed, some of the old thinking remains.
How many of us can understand the daily challenges he would have confronted from the history he was born into?
How many of us will ever know how often he wanted to say something, but chose not to?
From behind our headlines and microphones what do we say now? From behind our 280 character tweets and calls to talkback radio, what are we thinking now?
De Kock’s apology finishes:
“I just want to thank my teammates for their support, especially my captain, Temba. People might not recognise, but he is a flipping amazing leader. If he, and the team, and South Africa will have me, I would love nothing more than to play cricket for my country again.”
In one 48-hour period de Kock’s world has changed. It sees him differently now.
His apology is done. How long will it take before we give him ours?