We need ath­letes to speak up on the great trav­es­ties of justice

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - John Amaechi John Amaechi is a psy­chol­o­gist, chief ex­ec­u­tive of APS and a for­mer NBA player

Iwould de­scribe the re­sponse within the NBA and sports gen­er­ally in the United States to the shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake as the most civil of dis­obe­di­ences. It is amaz­ing to me when peo­ple com­plain about this level of ath­lete ac­tivism over mat­ters of con­science. We do not seem to mind the fact that they sell us sugar wa­ter; we do not mind that they sell us shoes that are too ex­pen­sive.

We ex­pect them to be role mod­els, and this is the kind of piv­otal mo­ment where peo­ple should re­ally step up and em­body that moniker. This is ex­actly the type of mo­ment when pow­er­ful peo­ple should use their voice and power to de­mand justice is done.

We have to keep dis­cussing the fact that there are ab­so­lute trav­es­ties of justice go­ing on. We can no longer pre­tend there are not and make ex­cuses about the na­ture of the peo­ple who are be­ing shot in the back seven times. Ev­i­den­tially, black lives do not mat­ter as much as ev­ery­one else’s.

There are plenty of is­sues of prej­u­dice and bias in the UK that our ath­lete role mod­els should be speak­ing about. I am not sure that Bri­tish pro­fes­sional ath­letes should nec­es­sar­ily be boy­cotting on the ba­sis of what is hap­pen­ing in the US, but there is enough hap­pen­ing at home for us to con­sider it not just nor­mal, but a re­spon­si­bil­ity for ath­letes to use their plat­form to speak out on be­half of those who do not have a voice.

If you look at health­care, ed­u­ca­tion and crim­i­nal justice, there are dis­par­i­ties. If you are a black woman in the UK, you are five times more likely to die in child­birth than if you are white. That is not due to phys­i­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences: we are not a dif­fer­ent species.

Right now, there is a so­ci­etal is­sue with racial in­tol­er­ance; in the UK, there is an is­sue with black peo­ple be­ing more likely than white peo­ple to be stopped and searched, have force used in those in­ter­ac­tions and even be fined for lock­down breaches. All of these dis­par­i­ties are real. What we want is to not have black peo­ple die

un­nec­es­sar­ily at the hands of those who are charged to “pro­tect and serve”.

I do not know whether we will ever see Bri­tish sport com­ing to­gether in the way we have seen

in the US. I think its ad­min­is­tra­tion is, at best, ap­a­thetic in terms of anti-racism – out­side of dis­abil­ity sport, per­haps.

But Mar­cus Rash­ford proved a few weeks ago that the voice of ath­letes can be lever­aged for great good re­gard­less. Chil­dren ate in­stead of go­ing hun­gry be­cause a foot­baller spoke up. If we are se­ri­ous about ask­ing and in­deed de­mand­ing that ath­letes be role mod­els, speak­ing up on the great is­sues of con­se­quence is ex­actly how they should be do­ing it. When you see what hap­pened with Rash­ford in the UK, LeBron James and his school in the US, you re­alise in some sit­u­a­tions, only some­one like an ath­lete can make it hap­pen.

If un­armed black peo­ple keep on get­ting shot in the back or choked to death, you can ex­pect this to es­ca­late in the US, but even now, NBA play­ers have de­cided to go back to work hav­ing made their point, but it would be a mis­take to think them fin­ished with civil dis­obe­di­ence. You can ex­pect it to move out of sports into other ar­eas where black peo­ple play prom­i­nent roles. I think that is what we should ex­pect.

You talk to white col­leagues and friends and they do not un­der­stand that, as a black per­son, there is some­thing trau­ma­tis­ing about watch­ing some­one be­ing mur­dered for look­ing like you. You turn on so­cial me­dia or the tele­vi­sion and you see some­one be­ing mur­dered or mal­treated, and it in­forms you that you are not quite enough, that your skin colour is a rea­son why oth­ers would think you are not a true cit­i­zen and do not de­serve even the right to live.

Fight­ing for the cause: Ra­heem Ster­ling has spo­ken out against racism in foot­ball

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