During Black History Month, George our Head of Development gives his thoughts on celebrating the contributions of black sports people make to society and what we can all do to be better allies.
“We are in black history month, a great time to shine a light and celebrate the contributions of black people to our society and reflect and look ahead to how can we do more to create a sense of belonging and impact on racial inequality.
We know sport has a magical way to break down barriers and boundaries and bring people together. We regularly witness people of all backgrounds playing in teams together, supporting their clubs, or helping their children take part in clubs. The overriding ingredient is a sense of feeling like you belong in these places and groups, and fundamentally as human beings we should all be responsible for creating that belonging.
As a white male I am less likely to have faced discrimination than others of different colours, religions or gender. Just because I have not experienced it, it does not mean that I can’t be an ally or a champion to eradicate discriminative behaviour from physical activity and sport, and society more generally.
Working for a physical activity and sport charity and having played sport nearly all my life, I wanted to reflect on some of my black hero’s. I always admired Andy Cole and his clinical goalscoring record for my team Manchester United, as well as watching one of our golden eras for athletics spearheaded by Linford Christie. The standout hero for me managed to transcend sport to be a global icon, and that was Michael Jordan.
But what was it about Michael Jordan that set him apart. His athleticism, his technique? Physique? Well it was all of those, but the thing he is most famous for is his attitude and his absolute focus on winning. He would treat a simple game of cards with a friend as importantly as the last minute of a deciding game 7 in the NBA finals. He always wanted to be the one to step forward to have the responsibility for the game winning shot, or to guard the oppositions danger man and try and shut them down with aggressive defence.
His impact was truly worldwide, creating brand:Jordan and drawing in millions of Chicago Bulls fans from all around the globe, many of whom probably cared little for basketball prior to that. The most overriding thing for those millions of fans was that here was this person who did amazing things and all for the cause of making the Chicago Bulls the best team in the NBA (numerous times). Just imagine also how many people Michael Jordan may have inspired to pick up a basketball (or even a baseball!)
And as I reflect on this, it reminds me of the responsibility I have as a human being to enable more people to feel like they belong in spaces and places where they can be active, and to model those inclusive behaviours and to be a champion for a more equal and fair society.”