Over the last 15 weeks, Redbrick Sport have posted recommendations to create awareness and educate ourselves and others on the issue of racism
Content warning: This article makes reference to the killings of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Travyon Martin, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice.
Over the past three months, Redbrick Sport have been sharing resources that highlight the intersection of sport and race, as we attempt to educate ourselves and others on the deep-rooted prejudice present in our society.
While sport does not hold all the answers, it certainly can help to expose and explain the presence of racism. Its communal nature and ability to trigger such strong emotions mean that it can both reinforce and remove discrimination.
We began with posts on our Instagram and Twitter in the wake of the death of George Floyd. These two posts featured a range of articles, books, and documentaries, which show the complex relationship between sport and race.
This was followed up with Instagram posts, spotlighting a number of individual resources on weekly basis. The first of these was a BBC Rugby Union Weekly podcast, ‘Rugby and Race.’ This examines issues such as rugby union’s pigeon-holing of black players into certain positions, the absence of black coaches at the top level and, above all, its reputation as the sport for the white, upper-class establishment.
The second recommendation was an article published in The Telegraph, exposing the lack of black representation in boardrooms and positions of power across almost all the sporting bodies in the U.K. The study found that only 3% of board members on sporting National Governing Bodies are black and many boards have no black members at all. These astonishing statistics alone show that a lot of work needs to be done, across all sports, to boost representation.
A YouTube video talking about the structural racism in cycling was the third recommendation. From the video, we learn that cycling remains a very white-dominated sport, and that clubs can be a very intimidating environment for black cyclists. On a positive note, the video shines a light on groups such as the Black Cyclist Network that have helped to increase involvement. The Diversity in Cycling Report is also discussed in the video, which discusses racism in cycling in more depth and has a number of recommendations to tackle the problem.
Redbrick Sport also posted an article on a ‘groundbreaking study’ which found that football commentary has evidence of racial bias. The study showed that there are clear differences in the language used when talking about footballers from BAME backgrounds compared to white footballers.
Just as the test cricket returned in June, our next resource was another report published in The Telegraph, which highlighted the racism and lack of diversity in English professional cricket. It tells the stories of a number of black cricketers, some who made it professionally and others that did not, and the abhorrent discrimination they faced throughout their careers.
The next source was one of our own. Sport Writer Cerys Holliday tracks the events over recent years in the NFL that stemmed from Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest in 2016. She questions the sincerity of the NFL’s belated apology for ‘not listening to NFL players earlier’ and whether they are doing enough in the fight against racism.
‘Beyond a Boundary’ by C.L.R. James was a fascinating source, addressing the complex relationship between cricket, colonialism, and the Caribbean. The sport was essential in instilling ‘British’ values as James grew up under imperial rue in Trinidad and throughout the West Indies. For anyone looking to learn about race, empire and sport, this is a great starting point.
The next recommendation was a BBC article by Boer Deng and serves as a valuable introductory read into basketball’s role in the discussion about racism. He speaks to former black players in the league, who reveal that success in the fickle world of sport is often the only route out of poverty for many African- Americans. Deng also touches on the power that NBA players have shown, with statements in support of the Black Lives Matter, yet questions whether the NBA can stimulate meaningful change as white owners and executives continue to dominate the league’s leadership.
Only a few weeks after this post, the world witnessed the shooting of Jacob Blake which resulted in NBA players refusing to play in protest. Our BLM recommendation that week was an article by Jesse Washington which argued that getting back on the court is the best thing players can do. Their talent gives them a platform to fight social justice and stimulate change, which would be much harder to achieve if the season was cancelled.
Before then, we looked at ‘Shame in the Game: Racism in Football’ which looked at the widespread issue of racism at all levels of the game in the UK. Featuring damning statistics and disturbing interviews, the short documentary still manages to have a big impact. It serves as a stark reminder of the prevalence of racial abuse in the nation’s favourite game and that more needs to be done to eradicate it.
If you are on the lookout for a new film to watch, the film ‘Race’ is a good choice. A biopic of Jesse Owens, it tracks his rise to Olympic success and offers a glimpse into the racial discrimination he faced in the U.S. and abroad.
We commemorated Slavery Remembrance Day with the book Forty Million Dollar Slaves by William Rhoden. It follows the history of black athletes in the U.S. from the 18th century to present day, and the parallels he draws between the sports industry of today and the institution of slavery makes it well worth a read.
The penultimate recommendation was another BBC article, delving into hockey’s ‘endemic racism’ in England. The article reports on a letter signed by eight hockey clubs criticising the treatment of ethnic minority players.
Acknowledging the success of black tennis star Naomi Osaka, the next article we posted, from CNN, applauds the big impression she made off the court. Osaka wore face coverings in each of her matches displaying the name of a different black victim of alleged police or racist violence in the U.S.
This tennis-related recommendation proved to be a fitting way to end the series of resources. Profiling each victim, the article ensures their stories are not lost amongst all the statistics, whilst reminding us of the urgent need for change across the world.
Osaka showed the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Travyon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice.
They will never be forgotten. Black Lives Matter.
Want to donate to an anti-racist cause? Here are a few useful links:
Black Lives Matter/Black Lives Matter UK
Stand Against Racism and Inequality
For more information, head to Redbrick’s BLM resource list.