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Legendary cricketer fights tears discussing Black Lives Matter

"The dehumanization of the Black race is where it started," said West Indies icon Michael Holding.
West Indies cricketers take a knee before the start of the first day of the 1st cricket Test match against England in Southampton on Wednesday.Adrian Dennis / AP

LONDON — One of the cricket's greatest heroes fought back tears on live television as he spoke of the racial prejudice his family has faced, during a discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Former cricketer Michael Holding, 66, who was one of the most feared and effective players the sport has known, was overcome with emotion as he spoke of how the focus on racism in society has affected him.

"I know what my parents went through. My mother's family stopped talking to her because her husband was too dark. I know what they went through and that came back to me immediately," said Holding, who was nicknamed "Whispering Death" for his silent runups.

Holding, was one of the most feared and effective bowlers the sport has known. In cricket, the bowler launches the ball towards the batsman, like a pitcher throwing to a batter in baseball.

Holding, who now works as a commentator, spoke as part of Sky Sports' team for the match between England and the West Indies — a multinational side with players drawn from English-speaking Caribbean nations, most of them former British colonies. The team's rivalry with England has at times reflected the role of the British empire and the colonial legacy in the Caribbean.

Addressing the effect the death of George Floyd is having on society, he said: "It's going to be a slow process, but I hope even if it's a baby step at a time, even if it's a snail's pace, I hope it will continue in the right direction."

Holding, who is covering the match between England and the West Indies this week in Southampton, England, was speaking after giving a four-minute speech on Wednesday this week in which he stressed the need to end "institutional racism."

"People need to understand this thing stems from a long time ago, hundreds of years ago," he said on Wednesday, in a clip now shared thousands of times on social media.

"The dehumanization of the Black race is where it started. People tell you, 'That was a long time ago, get over it.' No, you don't get over things like that."

West Indies' captain Jason Holder celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket during the first cricket Test match between England and West Indies in Southampton, England, on Thursday.Adrian Dennis / AP

Holding referred to the case of Amy Cooper, a white woman caught on video accusing a Black birdwatcher of threatening her life in New York's Central Park.

She assumed, Holding said, that because she was white and the man Black the police would believe her side of the story immediately.

Meanwhile, "the Black man will have to prove he is not guilty and by that time he might be dead," he said.

The players of both teams kneeled in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement before the start of the match this week, which is being played without spectators due to the risk of coronavirus.

Holding was part of the all-conquering West Indies team that became cricket's most successful team in the late 1970s and 1980s.