British Olympian Chris Lambert says the burden of change in the fight against racism has to be taken off individual sports people.
Lambert praises Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Dina Asher-Smith and others for using their powerful sporting voices to campaign for equal rights, but insists the responsibility rests with governing bodies.
The former European U23 sprint champion is heartened by seeing thousands take part in anti-racism marches across the United Kingdom following the death of American George Floyd.
But he believes the real test of a nation’s commitment is whether it is prepared to “take the conversations out of protests and into everyday life”.
Lambert said: “For change to happen it’s got to come from the top down.
“It’s got to be governing bodies that say ‘enough is enough – it’s not just for you as individuals to bear this on your backs any more’.”
The Londoner, who set three Ivy League records at Harvard University en route to the 2004 Olympics, points to NFL star Colin Kaepernick still being without a team despite now being hailed for his 2016 stance on racial injustice.
“It’s all well and good for (NFL boss) Roger Goodell to sit in front of a camera and say we should have done better, that now we will be supportive,” said Lambert. “That’s great. But what are you actually going to do?
“When are we actually going to see that players can make this stand and it is something sports bodies and associations and clubs can really back.
“It’s, what, seven years since Liverpool and the Patrice Evra T-shirts,” Lambert continued, referencing the 2011 incident in which Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing the Man Utd defender and Liverpool responded by wearing tops supporting their striker before their next game at Wigan.
“Liverpool made a big gesture recently with players taking a knee around the centre circle. That’s great, but have they addressed the fall-out from the Evra T-shirt issue?
“You can’t just whitewash over these things because there’s now a louder corporate or social movement. There’s got to be something under the surface of smart pictures that says ‘we’re actually trying to make a difference in the community here’.”
Lambert, 39, echoed Sterling’s call for sport to accord black sportsmen and women equal opportunity to become coaches and leaders.
“No-one’s saying you’ve got to give black athletes and black sportsmen stuff they don’t deserve,” he said. “What we are saying is them being black is not a hindrance to them getting jobs that they could get otherwise.”
In a separate blog post entitled Performative Equality, Lambert wrote: “Do not let the energy you give to equality in sport be dependent upon an arena of performance.
“We cannot perform our way to equality. Once the dreamy stadium lights go out, we’re all back into the harsh light of reality, and that is where the spotlight really needs to shine and the voices of the crowd really need to be heard.”
Read Chris Lambert’s blog at lambsenglish.wordpress.com
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