Black Lives Matter in Sport

I can’t breathe. Those are the last words that the now famous George Floyd said before he was suffocated by Derek Chauvin on May 25. This tragic event ignited protests all around the world after the video of his death was posted on social media. People around the world wanted to take a stand against racism and to try to help everyone see the light of this horrific event that could have easily been avoided. After this video was shown all around the world sport started to get involved. The Premier League wore Black Lives Matter football shirts and NBA players wore T-shirts that said, “I can’t breathe”. However, the main thing that the Premier League has done is to support players to kneel before a match which shows that they are taking a silent stand against racism.


Sportsmen and women taking the knee has caused a great deal of controversy in the USA. Colin Kaepernick popularised this symbolic gesture as a protest against systemic racism and police brutality in 2016. Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.” This stance effectively ended Kaepernick’s career after he was branded a “traitor” by NFL executives and Donald Trump made it very clear that when the national anthem athletes should stand up tall and be proud instead of taking a knee for racism. But times are changing; two weeks after the death of George Floyd the commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell apologised to the fans and players about banning the knee for the Black Lives Matter movement. The commissioner said to the public. "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. The protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening." This sent a strong message and allows people to notice that the NFL do care about the Black Lives Matter movement.


In the UK the FA has been plagued by similar controversies. Recently, Greg Clarke resigned from the FA after apologising for using the term “coloured footballers.” At best Clarke’s comment is an example of casual racism but at worst it’s an example of the language used in a system of oppression where white is considered ‘normal’ or the ‘default’ and everyone who is not white, that is ‘coloured’, are ‘abnormal’ or ‘deviant’. The equality charity Kick It Out said that his remark should be “consigned to the dustbin of history” and criticised further comments made by Clarke concerning people from South Asia, gay players and female footballers. Even though the Premier League are still taking the knee for the Black Lives Matter movement there is still a lot of racism going on in football. This is not good enough. It’s time to make a change.


Mohammed Adil, Year 12