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Why racism in sport is so dangerous

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16th August, 2019

Do you know when you have one of those weeks, where you just feel deflated? Maybe it’s the weather, some sad news, or maybe its just the realisation that you’re in a rut and not sure how to escape.

Deflated, that’s been my week in a nutshell.

I should be the total opposite. Footy codes are coming up to semi-final September, a Bledisloe in the balance, Ashes could be coming home and the Rugby World Cup on the horizon.

So much to look forward to, then why the melancholy?

The world never really fails to offer up reasons where sport, in the grand scheme of things, just doesn’t matter.

China mobilising on Hong Kong, mass shootings in the US, climate change inaction. Take your pick.

The weekend of sport is meant to provide respite, right?

Let me ponder this for a minute.

One obvious question is what’s happening in the world right now that may crossover into sport in Australia at the moment?


If I was to be totally open and honest, I see a link between the rise of white supremacist violence and the racism levelled at Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson this week.

Latrell Mitchell

Latrell Mitchell of the Roosters. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

This view may be controversial, but as a person of colour myself acutely aware of the climate in the Donald Trump era, I feel that there has been a change.

Certain elements of our society here in Australia have felt emboldened, to verbalise or publish their disgusting vitriol and racist views.

And its filtering into sport. Of course, there has always been racism in sport and society.

What’s changed is the usually quite/silent minority, now through social media have a platform to espouse in relative anonymity.

This may change thanks to Mitchell, Ferguson for calling it out and journalist Andrew Webster for naming and shaming.

Kudos especially to the Roosters in their total support for Mitchell. To his father also for being man enough to shed a tear as I from experience, an aggressive reactionary wall to save face is seen as more masculine.


Nevertheless, I still have a sense of fear.

Though the crap that appears on the TV, Instagram, Facebook and other forums may appear benign in the sense of stick and stones. It still hurts!

Ask Adam Goodes, Liz Cambage, Latrell Mitchell, Blake Ferguson, Eddie Betts, Francis Awaritefe and Petero Civoniceva just to name a few.

But the link between white supremacist violence and sport I fear is those published words full of hate directed towards Mitchell and Ferguson, reek of the same dehumanising racism behind Utoya, Christchurch and El Paso.

For some reason, whether its just social media or as I suspect a change in the political climate, the purveyors of racist vitriol seem bolstered.

However, there is always a way forward. Despite the political climate inside and outside Australia, the power remains in the community. We need to maintain our defensive line, our zone defence, our defensive formation our shape to combat racism.

Unfortunately, at times there is no line between sport and the real world. The sporting contest can be a great distraction, we cannot let it distract us from racism.

There is too much at stake. Remember hate can breed hate and the slope is all too slippery.


Post-Script: Not for one second would I think verbal racism could escalate into any type of violence against an Indigenous athlete. But before it occurred, I wouldn’t have thought that an Australian would do what he did in NZ.