Global outrage sparks over removal of Jewish South African U19 cricket captain

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies called the decision an ‘outrageous act of antisemitism.’

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

South African Jews reacted with outrage on Friday after the country’s governing body for the sport of cricket stripped the Jewish captain of the U-19 national team of his role, citing the “risk of conflict or even violence” as the reason.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced that David Teeger, who is Jewish, would no longer captain the side just one week before the opening of the U-19 Cricket World Cup, when teams from 16 nations will compete in South Africa for the sport’s top prize.

In a statement released on Friday, CSA said that its security team had advised “that protests related to the war in Gaza can be anticipated at the venues for the tournament.”

It added that such protests would likely focus on Teeger — an observant Jew and resident of Johannesburg who made his professional cricket debut in 2023, scoring an impressive 51 runs for the South Africa Emerging Players side against North Cape. Teeger was only appointed to the captaincy of the U-19 team last month.

The targeting of Teeger could result “in conflict or even violence between rival groups of protestors,” CSA said. Invoking its “duty to safeguard the interests and safety of all those involved in the World Cup,” it said that Teeger had been “relieved of the captaincy … in the best interests of the players, the U-19 team, and David himself.” Teeger would “remain an important and active member of the team and we wish him and the team every success in the tournament,” CSA concluded.

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CSA’s decision — against the background of rising antisemitism in South Africa, widespread support for Hamas in the wake of its Oct. 7 pogrom in Israel, and the charge of “genocide” brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) — provoked fury in South Africa’s Jewish community.

Prof. Karen Milner, chair of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), told The Algemeiner that CSA’s decision was “an outrageous act of antisemitism.”

“There is no basis for this decision, other than the fact that Teeger is Jewish,” Milner said. “It is shameful that CSA is embarking on a path that is dangerously reminiscent of Nazi Germany, when Jews were actively discriminated against, including among sporting clubs.” She stressed that the SAJBD “would do everything in its power to fight against this vicious prejudice.”

In a separate statement, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) said it would be calling on the International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport’s global governing body, “to investigate the CSA’s blatant act of discrimination.”

“The ANC [ruling African National Congress] government’s political hostility to Israel and its friendship with Hamas has created a climate in which it is entirely acceptable to target a sportsman because he is proudly Jewish,” the SAZF stated.

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Among those expressing sympathy for Teeger on social media was three-time MLB All-Star Kevin Youkilis. “Heart goes out to this young Jewish man,” Youkilis posted on X/Twitter. “The ‘security risk’ excuse is bullshit.”

Former Boston Red Sox star Youkilis also referred to a speech that Teeger made just weeks after the Hamas pogrom, delivered after he received the “Rising Star” Award at a Jewish community ceremony. Teeger paid tribute to the Israeli military, saying, “Yes, I’ve been [given] this award, and yes, I’m now the Rising Star, but the true rising stars are the young soldiers in Israel.” He went on to dedicate the award to “the State of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora.”

Teeger was being “punished for showing gratitude to the State of Israel,” Youkilis commented.