Sports and Black Lives Matter

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The resumption of the English Premier League (EPL) has been a much welcome respite from the continued lockdown enforced halt on most sporting activities. Watching the opening games in what the EPL terms “operation restart”, one could easily notice the incorporation of various issues that have been at centre stage in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown.

One such feature is that of players taking a knee just before kick-off and all team uniforms with ‘’black lives matter’’ inscribed where they normally have players names. 

This is a bold statement bythe EPL bringing the conversation on racial discrimination to the fore; one that has gathered momentum during the lockdown, particularly in America. 

However, we could not help but see the similarities to an attempt made in the American National Footbal League (NFL) by star football player, Colin Kaepernick, a civil rights activist who attempted to convey his message by kneeling during the national anthem before a game. 

He was dismissed by his team in what is believed to be politically related repudiation and has been out of a job since 2017. 

And so, the same gesture in American society courted much controversy whereas in England and across the world, it has been applauded.

It is clear that capitalism is the ultimate judge of who is right and wrong. 

In the US, American football is the most popular sport and the NFL franchise is worth close to US$3 billion. 

While it is huge in America, it is not that much in other parts of the world. 

On the other hand, the EPL, which is worth in the region of US$5 billion, also relies heavily on their global reach into markets such as Africa and Asia making money through Television rights, merchandising and sponsorships. 

Their appeal to diverse regional and racial demographics requires a delicate balance and sensitivity to issues affecting their wider audience.

From the empire era to today’s Commonwealth of Nations, the British have mastered the art of maintaining this delicate dance with those whom they intend to exploit. 

They are more amiable to a certain level of assimilation of diversity for their ultimate good. 

The NFL on the other hand is predominantly an American product and hence no need to appease the wider global market. 

Unlike the British Empire, American society for over 200 years only knew black people to be slaves and not worth any civil rights. 

This explains the difference in approach and reaction to this simple gesture of kneeling activism. 

The NFL, which is only answerable to a society yet to fully embrace their minority groups, banned players from kneeling and attached steep fines to their clubs. 

President Donald Trump was in support of this, even saying that the NFL should ‘’fire’’ players who protest.

The conversation on racial discrimination shall continue well beyond Covid-19 simply because Black lives do matter. 

This in no way means any life matters less as is common cynicism by some intending to down play the issue. 

The call for women empowerment does not imply to disempower men, but

simply an acknowledgment that historically, they have not been awarded the same opportunities as their male counterparts. 

It is in this vein that the campaign for black lives is premised on. 

Maybe it will only take people of colour from all walks of life to realise that by creating value in who they are first, will be the most effective way to force the redress in this capitalist society. 

The EPL has shown that this indeed is possible.

Maybe the British can now go a step further, as did King Phillippe of Belgium recently, by formally expressing his ‘regrets’ to Congo for King Leopold II atrocities, in this way lead their American cousins in this important conversation.

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