AIPS vice president, Evelyn Watta addressed the prevalent issue of racism in sports during the 1st AIPS World e-Conference on July 2, with emphasis on the role of the sports media in combatting the societal scourge.
 
The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the US on 25 May sparked a wave of protests against racial discrimination around the world and even athletes are speaking up, taking a knee and demanding change.
 
“We, as the sports media, must continue to exert pressure to make sure that the voices of athletes and administrators who are facing any form of discrimination; be it racial, gender or religious biases and ethnicism that is common in most African countries are heard,” Watta urged. She, however, emphasised that even within the media industry, racism needs to be dealt with.
 
Below is the full speech of AIPS vice president Evelyn Watta - RACISM IN SPORT, delivered at the AIPS World e-Conference on July 2.
 
“In 2019 I witnessed injustices and inequalities in my life as a Black athlete, a Black woman and a Black runner in America. I've been told that as a Black woman, I can’t be super emotional, and to be mindful of 100% of the things I’m saying during interviews. I’ve been told, don’t speak too loudly and don’t come across in any way that might convey a stereotype of an African American woman. - Olympic and World record holder over the 400m hurdles, Dalilah Muhammad,USA(Sports Illustrated)
 
It doesn’t matter what I do or accomplish, how kind or “good” a person I may be, how educated or well-intentioned I am, there are people out there that seek to do me wrong because of the colour of my skin. Dina Asher Smith World 200m champion, Great Britain (The Telegraph)
 
"My parents explained to me when I was very young, those things are going to happen, and you'll just have to be the bigger person and keep moving.” Ian Simon, American footballer -ESPN
 
The NBA felt “like being in a zoo,” an anonymous NBA player shared how he felt fans treated played as if they were not human….
 
This footballer was racially abused by fans… and then banned for six months’-CNN
 
Would we have written or read these quotes and headlines were it not for the context of the Black Lives Matter movement?
 
It is concerning that most of the athletes are opening up on racial discrimination for the first time, yet they have been in sports for many years, an environment that is considered safe and welcoming.
 
It’s evident, sports is not a united front or the great equaliser it should be. In 2015, a study by the University of Missouri found out that black athletes received a tenth of the “morally successful” stories in the media compared to white athletes. They are usually described as brats and spoilt. We have seen racist criticism of black athletes from Serena Williams to Raheem Sterling.
 
We, as the sports media, must continue to exert pressure to make sure that the voices of athletes and administrators who are facing any form of discrimination; be it racial, gender or religious biases and ethnicism that is common in most African countries are heard.
 
But sometimes it may not be easy to confront racism, inequalities and discrimination in sport when we cannot deal with the problem that is within the media industry.
 
In an article in the Columbia Journalism review, titled confronting racism within the press: “Far too many powerful people in the media approach racism as a bias, or one side of an argument, rather than as a condition of life.” The writer acknowledges the power of the media to lead against the problem, however, the salient issues are bypassed.
 
From my own experience even amongst familiar work and corporate circles, many of my colleagues find it is easy to describe me as a black woman not even the journalist from Kenya or the AIPS vice president. To use the word black as a collective noun is ok but as an adjective… it leaves a bitter taste.
 
We as the media, sporting federations and even associations like the AIPS must move beyond the diversity and inclusion panels, conferences and seminars to address the issue. 
 
Even as we entertain and inform on our pages and sports bulletins, we must take a lead on the anti-racist front. The tone and content of our coverage must not reproduce racism or discrimination.
 
We must push the sports custodians and administrators to work harder and faster to fix any form of discrimination. We have seen footballers walking out from the field of play, hundreds of athletes around the world have taken a knee because sport has not done enough to fight racism.
 
I will end on the words of Chris Grant, from the Sports England board member, it is not the job of athletes to fix the problem of racism in sport.
 
 AIPS Media