- Sanya Mahajan
Tackling Racism in Sports: Shining a Spotlight on Its Lack of Diversity
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
Exploring Equality in a World of Prejudice: Reflecting on George Floyd and the Urgent Need to Address Racism in the Sports Industry.
What is equality in a world that breeds prejudice? From harbouring predominant mindsets to targeting people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, and colour, the world today yet again contemplates the notion of equality. The year 2020 showcased a haunting reality of how deeply rooted the idea of racism is in people when George Floyd, a black man lost his life due to police brutality. Shaking the world awake to the dire consequences of ignoring a history of pain and sacrifice.
The roots of injustice flow endlessly till date and the Sports industry just like any other has been a victim of such racial inequality. From boardroom politics to physical education, the industry has been white-washed in every sense of the word. The lack of diversity in management is not the sole reason that this sector today makes the headlines. The inefficiency in educating players on embracing diversity to the blatant disregard by today’s media when commentating puts athletes through layers of challenges.
Such as the recent instance that occurred during the Euro 2020 Finals. With the country united as one, cheering on the stands for their players, it only took one second for the entire base to point fingers at a man of colour who missed a goal. England’s Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho were targets of utterly vile abuse and racist remarks after missing out on the penalties during the Euro 2020 finals; yet again proving how far we really are from creating change.
One of the worst things about racism is how predictable it's become. Several tweets concerning the recent football match highlighted the incessant disparities that come into play depending on a match’s outcome.
“When we win, they love us and we’re English. When we lose, they hate us and want us out of the country.”
Proving once again how Britain is a country deeply afflicted with systematic racism. Some may say that the deeply rooted idea may also branch out from the country’s history of scientific racism, slavery, and colonisation. However, it wasn't just an English player who received such treatment. Many other players have experienced such abuse online by their own fans. From Muslim-Indian sports stars to Japanese players with black heritage, many have been subjected to such hate in their own countries. Kylian Mbappé, a french player was a victim of such injustice online after missing his penalty goal in a second-round clash defended by Yann Somer, a Swiss goalie sending the french football team home.
The Glass Ceiling in European Football report, published by Fare and commissioned by UEFA shares that only 3.4% of senior coaching positions were held by ethnic minority men and nil by ethnic minority women in European countries. Whether it's a super league or a grassroots match, the growing mindsets today point fingers at members of the same team, discriminating and threatening the very idea of community in an industry like sports.
Being in the era of digitalisation, the cons often outweigh the pros. The ease in accessibility to matches, player’s personal lives, and social media pages have tunnelled a way for fans to form a stronger connection with the athletes. Unfortunately, it's also paved the way for directly addressing and sharing their strong opinions to the world, disregarding the consequences of their actions. And just like that, another wave of media-induced support returns to balance the flow. Influencers, viewers, and celebrities playing their part on social media channels supporting the cause. The world needs to stop fashioning out an issue people are losing their lives over. The temporary words that grace their screens during the time of crisis shouldn't just be there to make a statement.
According to Kick It Out, an equality and inclusion organisation established in 1993, there has been a shocking level of increase in race hate and homophobic abuse around football matches across social media platforms. Their 2019-20 annual reports showcase a 53% increase in racial abuse and a startling 93% increase in abuse based on sexual orientation.
The industry has been fractionated and made to believe that change is underway. Sadly, people today only stay on course if similar instances of racial discrimination continue to pop up. It's time to rid ourselves of temporary gestures and make it our constant goal to destroy the in-built nature of racism; move towards creating a legacy that honours the sacrifices. People need to understand that Black lives matter, period. The mural honouring Marcus Rashford was recently flooded with messages of hate and abuse in Shoreditch. However, the same mural was defended by countless fans that covered the words of hate and filled it with messages of love, hope, and respect.
© Photograph by AP Photo/Jon Super
The recent actions do witness a potential for growth and a future that’s inclusive and diverse. A change in the course is necessary to fight together for what is right. The question now is, how can we make a difference? A strong commitment from social media channels to report and take action against such remarks is essential. A zero-tolerance policy against any sort of discrimination from academic training institutions, coaches, and funders can help achieve transformation. A collective and individual take on the issue along with educating people on addressing such inequality needs more awareness. It's all about making it to the goal now.