Racism defined according to Oxford dictionary as “prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”
Racism is a topic people like to avoid because it is big. It can’t be whittled down to one action or incident and therefore, it creates awkward silences.The elephant in the room.It raises questions that need to be answered. It brings a topic that is usually swept under the rug above board and forces people to engage with the reality of it.
As a young black girl who has been involved in sports from an early age, it was not until a few years back I realised that in some of my sports I was the only girl, let alone only black girl. Now when I noticed this, it prompted me to ask questions. Why? How? – when I first started sports there was a good mix of players, but now at the higher end of the sport I’m the only black girl. I needed answers to my questions.
Speaking to previous team mates, friends and family and reading about various racial sporting incidents, the running theme to why people of colour stopped playing sport, thus resulting in a lack of diversity at the higher end of the sport, is racially led. They had had enough of what is called racial micro-aggressions. “A micro-aggression is a comment or action that negatively targets a marginalised group of people.” They had had enough abuse and in the end gave up the sport that they love. These micro-aggressions starting off as being very subtle, so for example, jabs about why your hair can’t be put up in a ponytail or put into mid-length french braids, to more noticeable racism such as being split up in groups based on the colour of your skin, crowds chanting racial slurs and verbal abuse at specific players and continual isolation in team talks, socials etc.
Another common reason that I have observed that results in less colour participation/advancement in sports at higher levels is due to the the lack of support and appreciation BAME players receive. People too often forget that sports is about coming together to form a harmonious team, whether that be in hockey, netball, football or even tennis – you have a whole team behind you helping you reach your goals. It isn’t always about winning. It can be a source of enjoyment that you get from being with new people, a source of enjoyment you get from exercising with friends or even a source of enjoyment you get from trying something new. The main core values of why people start/ enjoy playing sport is getting confused with societies claim that if you play, you play to win. And if you don’t win, you’re a failure. A noticeable example of this can be seen in the Euro 2021 Final where England lost. The backlash of the loss was heavily felt on 3 of the teams BAME players (Marcus Rashford, Jordan Sancho, Bukayo Saka) where they received mass racists comments, destruction to fan murals and certainly confidence damage. There was not enough appreciation/gratitude shown to the players thanking them for their hard work and supporting them. In fact I remember my mum walking out of the room knowing that if they missed a penalty the backlash of racist slurs that would come would be heartbreaking. The fact that this was the first thought that came into her mind shows the deep-rooted seed of racism in sports is starting to become perpetual thought.
These incidents are slowly starting to become a theme, a trend, a perpetual thought. These themes and trends have long lasting effects on the victims and the sports next generation. Racism in sport and the fight against racism in sport should not be a trend that comes and goes. It should not be a hashtag that is used only when the victims of such abuse speak out. It should not be something that is talked about only when there is an incident. The matter needs to be tackled head-on, everyday. Tackling racism in sport can not be done alone, and it shouldn’t be. “As Chris Grant a member of the Sport England board said it is not the “job” of professional athletes to “fix the systemic problem” of racism in sport.” In order to drastically change racism in sport there needs to be a change from all. We need to stop this perpetual thought and barrier for the next generation. We need to educate, support, guide and appreciate all of our team players and ultimately have a universal stop to racism. I believe that only at this point will these trends, themes and incidents stop.
Article written by Aiysha Alli