Football making a show of Black Lives Matter campaign irks me

By Donald Oliver June 25, 2020

As human beings, we are attracted to extravagance.

We like to be a part of the big show. Whether it be protests or boycotts, parades or marches, or social media hashtags, we crave the solidarity of community in championing our causes… and we react.

And let’s be fair, that has its place. Martin Luther King’s adaptation of Mahatma Gandhi’s design in the 1950s and ‘60s worked. Peaceful protests elicited an overreaction from law enforcement which in turn got the attention of the President of the United States. And racism was cured.

Ok… so racism wasn’t cured. There is still a lot of work to do.

However, the solution is not going to come from a showpiece.

So, when the English Premier League decided to mandate that every team in their division wear “Black Lives Matter” on the back of their shirts instead of their names, it really ground my gears.

Maybe I was uncomfortable with being confronted with the issue head-on with the return of sport, in the aftermath of wall-to-wall news coverage of an ever-changing world. Football was to be my release.

What irks me the most, though, is that we have seen this all before from the Premier League.

Didn’t they launch a “No Room for Racism” campaign last year? And wasn’t there a “Kick It Out” campaign before that?

In both instances, it was just an extravagant show. “Kick It Out” is English football’s equality and inclusion organization, which was established as a body in 1997.

The problem is, the body has no power to impose sanctions on individuals or groups who are actually found guilty of racism at football games.

Now if “Kick It Out” can’t be trusted to make straightforward decisions, how is the Premier League going to assist in rooting out systemic racism which sees an obvious lack of black stakeholders in management, ownership and coaching in the UK?

The fight against racism in football needs to go up a few notches behind the scenes. Institutionalizing protest gestures like kneeling before the start of games robs the potency of the moment. And wearing “black lives matter” shirts seems like a total mockery to me, because it makes no difference.

Probably because acknowledging that black lives actually matter is the lowest denominator one can request in sport and in life.

In doing research for this article I came upon this link to the UEFA website which speaks about social responsibility and racism, only for it to hilariously return the message that the page doesn’t exist.

The irony is telling.

The sport’s governing body FIFA has run far from the issue of mixing politics and sport. And in a sense I understand, politics and sport should not mix.

However, the elevation of the black race in the quest for opportunity in a sport should not be deemed, politics. It is the right thing to do.

Football, after all, is a global game and representation in the elite leagues in Europe matters.

So provide opportunities for black coaches especially from poorer countries to get accredited; and for black players especially from third-world countries to further their careers.

It can be done, but the message must be engraved on the hearts of those who can enforce the change, and not on the backs of those who can’t.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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