Confronting racial prejudice in sport

Wednesday 27th November 2019 11:30 EST

The debate over racism in sport has been once again thrust into the spotlight following the racial abuse that Jofra Archer faced at Mount Maunganui. After the first Test between New Zealand and England, the Barbadian-born English cricketer revealed that he was targeted by a fan “yelling bbc and bc from the scoreboard area”. This is the second time that the blue-eyed ace bowler has reported revealed such an issue. Earlier in September Archer was subjected to another racist barracking from Australian spectators during the Ashes Test at Old Trafford. Recently, Moeen Ali had also revealed that he was called “Osama” by an Australian player during the 2015 Ashes.

Racism not as common in cricket as compared to football”

Following Archer's tweet, there were multiple reactions from across the cricketing quarters including reports of Kane Williamson personally apologising to Archer. However, Gulfraz Riaz, chairman, and founder of the National Asian Cricket Council said,

“Racism is not as common in cricket as compared to football. It is unfortunate what happened with Jofra Archer but I believe that it is an isolated incident. The fact that England’s most diverse cricket team recently won the World Cup is a true reflection of the spirit of cricket in the UK.

“It is true that in the past, sledging has been associated with cricket. But sledging depends upon several other factors besides racism including the playing technique, mind games and psychological tactics among others. Generally speaking, it is a practice whereby some players seek to gain an advantage by verbally intimidating the opposing player.”

While there is no recent report providing statistical information analysis of racism in cricket, a recent BBC report examines the hate crime in Football. According to Home Office figures, there was a 66% rise in hate crimes reported at professional football games across England and Wales last season. Incidents reported rose to 194 in 2018-19 and of 323 reports in the past two seasons, 230 of these cases related to racial abuse. Multiple explanations or factors account for increasing racial incidents. Gulfraz believes, 

“The current divisive political climate in the UK has a spillover effect in other areas of the country. The Brexit-prone UK conveys a message that Great Britain is for the British people only and in more than ways than one it has divided an otherwise multi-cultural and integrated UK.”


Racism? Then we don’t play football”


However, Monty Panesar, a left-arm spinner, who made his Test cricket debut in 2006 against India shares his experience when fans in India had cracked “Sardarji jokes” on him. Although he recalls most of these fans well-behaved on the grounds, he recalls of instances when fans would slur cultural proverbs at him wherein he was only “seen to be physically strong but with a thick head”. Speaking about a different and a more vocal climate that exists in today's cricketing pitch, Monty says,

“Back in those days, I was not as courageous and did not want to create any issues so, I kept quiet. My coaches usually advised me to focus more on my cricket and play for my country.

“Today, however, the environment seems much better. But going forward, I would like to see something of the sort that happened in the Netherlands. An anti-racism message – “Racism? Then we don’t play football’ was displayed and I would like to see something of that nature happen in International Cricket as well. Players can make a lot of impact, sometimes much more than the governing body and people would think twice before hurling racial comments if such measures were taken.”

Whilst Panesar proposes for issuing a financial penalty on the fans to prevent growing racism, Gulfraz argues that it is not a feasible option. Instead, he suggests that the best way to counter growing racism is by making an example of a racist fan or an individual. He says,

“If we name and shame that person, ban his/her entrance from the grounds and take preventive measures in ensuring that there isn’t a way he can access tickets for himself, then a true football fan will realise his fault and behave accordingly.”

 The latest reports note that the spectator who allegedly racially abused Jofra Archer could receive a lifetime ban from attending cricket matches in New Zealand

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