It sends out the crystal clear message that the old normal for many is utterly unacceptable in the new world for the vast majority. Beyond the pandemic, racism has been a virus, infecting generations for decades, in thoughts, words and deeds, particularly cancerous in the world game.
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Particularly poignant in English football when you recall vibrant figures like the Liverpool and England winger John Barnes controlling a banana thrown at him from a mob of hate in the 1980s.
Particularly probing when you witness terrifically talented young players like the Manchester City and England winger Raheem Sterling being racially abused at Wembley Stadium, the heartland of the national sport, in the 2010s.
It remains a problem of the here and now with two City fans banned for life by their club in January for hurling racist abuse at Sterling at a game in 2018.
With the corporate image of the world’s richest football league endorsing the campaign to rid the world of this pestilence watched by billions across the globe, there can be no going back. No waiting and wondering what others are doing to affect change in our times.
Racism, social injustice and child poverty has riddled this country for decades and centuries, but that does not mean it should be allowed to infect future generations.
The Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford’s timely intervention and successful campaign for free school meals in England this summer is a reminder that change can be affected by spreading the ecumenical word of what is morally right.
The ongoing fight against racism should not stop in professional sport any time soon. It cannot and should not halt with football players wearing Black Lives Matter on their shirts. Sports such as golf and cycling, traditionally bastions of the white middle class, should look at what they can do to join the Premier League’s widespread chorus promoting equality and diversity. And it must be ongoing and sustained.
Players take a knee at the beginning of the game during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on June 19, 2020
Image credit: Getty Images
Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of a world where people are judged on the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin is more relevant today than ever.
The Black Lives Matter movement must be encouraged to promote its peaceful protest for change in society in every sport. It is a global movement that should be supported to eradicate institutional and societal racism.
“Silence is not a position I will take,” said the US Ryder Cup golfer Tony Finau as he reflected on his own experiences of racism.
“It is time to add greater understanding to our perspectives. It is time for all of us to build a future together that treats everyone with the dignity, fairness, respect and equality that they deserve.”
Alfie Burden, the snooker professional from London, should be applauded for taking a knee during the recent Championship League snooker match in Milton Keynes.
Burden was horrified by the image of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer in May. He took the knee before the start of a match in Milton Keynes, projecting the mood that the status quo will no longer hold.
It resonated with millions because it looked unusual prior to playing snooker, but why should it be treated as an oddity? Taking a knee should be widely encouraged as a powerful declaration of intention to affect the change that is necessary. There is no harm in such an act of human self-awareness.
“This was my platform. I stand behind the fight against racism. It’s a disgraceful thing,” he said.
“The well-documented death of Floyd has touched everyone. There’s no place for racism in society.”
Isaac Hayden of Newcastle United takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Sheffield United at St. James Park on June 21, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Image credit: Getty Images
Other sports should look at the Premier League’s public stance and ask themselves: Are we doing enough to show that Black Lives Matter?
If the answer is no, then the time for change is now. More can be done and must be done. More will be done.
Professional sport has a crucial role to play in informing, educating and indeed protecting the next generation against such evils. A matter of life and death? It is more important than that.