Before the Confederate Flag, There was the Springbok

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Before the Confederate Flag There was the Springbok

Much has been made recently about the confederate flag. I personally don’t see the outrage towards it. I respect the traditions of other cultures. Yes, I just described rednecks as a culture.

While the confederate flag became an unintentional symbol of racism in the United States, South Africa had their own, the Springbok. Black South Africans wanted to rid themselves of the name, colours, and logo of the country’s national rugby team. They say it was a symbol associated with the oppression and apartheid that divided the country. You may find it hard to compare Bambi to the swastika, but many who opposed apartheid saw it that way.

When Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa in 1994, many believed the Springbok would fade into oblivion. But it was Mandela himself who wanted the Springbok to stay. As part of the county hosting the 1995 Men’s Rugby World Cup, he led the way to keep it as a way to unite the country much to the shock and dismay of his supporters. Many resigned to follow Mandela’s lead but as it turned out the citizens of South Africa, both black and white, rallied around the mostly white men’s rugby team during the tournament and wore the Springbok logo and colours with pride. South Africa would win the Rugby World Cup that year.

If you get a chance, go rent the movie Invictus. Morgan Freeman does an excellent job in his role as Mandela. Clint Eastwood shows us why he is a great director. And for the ladies, there’s Matt Damon as the team’s captain Francois Pienaar.

Almost 20 years later, the Springbok continues to live. Barack Obama is one of many political leaders who have admired the work of Mandela. Perhaps Obama could follow Mandela’s lead in uniting what has been a divided country in his two terms in office as US President. But I don’t expect to see Obama rallying around the confederate flag the way Mandela did with the Springbok. That’s too bad. I think it could have produced similar results.

Also see:

Racism Knows No Bounds
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism
The Point Where Haters Become Worse than Those You Hate

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