Racism is not confined to North America. But something powerful is happening there. Thanks to a number of brave NFL players, each game is being marked with a peaceful, but very marked protest. Taking one knee during the American National Anthem is controversial enough that even Donald Trump has taken an embittered if predictable stance against it. But the tide is changing. Where team owners initially warned against protests from players, now they back the movement, wary of the popular support it’s gathering. With the ‘taking a knee’ movement seeming poised to spread into Baseball, Nascar and the NBA, is it time other sports around the world started to follow suit?
Okay, most sports don’t feature national anthems. But some do. Formula One plays anthems when drivers take to the podium for instance. But there are plenty of other opportunities for players to make a statement. Before a match starts, in the centre circle, perhaps during the time traditionally reserved for the minute’s silence. Out on court, before a singles match, assembled by the umpire’s chair or at the net. Rugby games can’t be stopped playing anthems and neither can international soccer matches. There is ample opportunity for players of other sports to take the same stand as their colleagues in the United States.
But should they? The stand being taken is against racial oppression in the United States. But you only have to look at the rise of far right extremism in European politics to be convinced something needs to be done on this side of the water too. The treatment of immigrants growing increasingly harsh, especially in the post-Brexit UK and the rise of parties in France, Germany and elsewhere has triggered a polarisation that it seems sportsmen and women really shouldn’t stay out of too much longer.
I doubt there woiuld be anything like the backlash the NFL players are currently facing, but it might likely take players of particular strength to initiate something and highlight issues taking place here. Should participants of football, rugby, tennis , formula 1 and more join in with taking a knee?
Feature image: Chicago Tribune