Black Lives Matter

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While the action during the 80 minutes of yesterday’s game was tough to watch, for me the best moment came before kick-off when all 30 Cardiff Blues and Scarlets starting players took a knee to support anti-racism.

The lockdown put in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic changed the world in many ways, but the platform it gave to the anti-racism movement as a whole was something special, and to see some of the top rugby players in Wales support that in such a powerful way at Parc y Scarlets is an image that will hopefully become iconic in Welsh Rugby and society as a whole.

There is no place for racism under any circumstance. No ifs, no buts.

As a general rule I don’t do real life politics on this blog, or on it’s affiliated social media. Rugby politics is stressful enough, and general political Twitter is an even bigger cesspit than Welsh Rugby Twitter, which takes some achieving!

However some comments, particularly on Facebook, which is the cesspit of all cesspits, have inspired this blog as it is no longer enough to just be a not racist individual. We have reached a point where people are either racist or anti-racist. If you sit in the middle ground then you are facilitating racism.

“Keep politics out of sport”

“I hope they dont start this kneeling, we don’t need politics in sport !!!”

“This is the UK, not the USA. I do not want to see players fawning about with symbolic gestures. Where is the racism in Rugby TODAY. There may have been many years ago, but as a society we have moved on. How long have we got to keep on apologising for things that happened generations ago. It is up to EVERYONE to intervene if they witness any forms of racial abuse (including against white skinned people). The BLM movement is a dangerous, slippery slope and prominent people need to look into the organisation before just accepting what they see on social media. This is very divisive and has no place in sport. Instead of the pathetic knee taking, how about embracing / cwtching their fellow players and showing solidarity that way?”

“Stopped watching when they started kneeling, politics has no place in sports, especially a political party funded by George Soros. They really should have done their homework before getting involved in this.”

“This has nothing to do with rugby it stinks”

These are all comments copied and pasted from the Cardiff Blues’ official Facebook page, underneath posts on #RugbyAgainstRacism and the match report of Saturday’s defeat to the Scarlets. I have opted not to include the names on the people posting the comments in this piece, but they are there on Facebook for you to see.

They display an ignorance, either purposely or naively, of what ‘Black Lives Matter’ is and the continuing problem of racism in society as a whole and in Welsh Rugby specifically.

Let’s start with Welsh Rugby, and the idea that racism isn’t a problem. Just this year we’ve had a Trefil RFC player banned for racially abusing a Llanrumney RFC player, a Pontarddulais RFC WhatsApp group was outed as racist against a black player, and Filo Paulo was racially abused by a supporter of Aberavon RFC.

There’s also been Cardiff Blues’ own Willis Halaholo and Ashton Hewitt of the Dragons talking about their experiences of racism, particularly over social media, while being professional rugby players in Wales.

Willis Halaholo Edinburgh

Just one incidence of racism in Welsh Rugby is too many, so to have five of which that we know about just this year underlines a problem within our game that we must continue to fight. This includes criticising the Welsh Rugby Union when punishments handed out for racist incidents are far too soft.

So we know why it’s important to make a statement, but what is political about being anti-racist? The answer is nothing at all.

Black Lives Matter is a statement. It opposes police brutality, pushes fairness in education and advocates for equal opportunities for people regardless of their race. Generally it promotes a fair and equal society.

It does not mean that other lives don’t matter. It is a reminder that racism still exists and that many people are disadvantaged or are simply unsafe due to the colour of the skin they were born with.

Unfortunately there are groups that have organised politically under the name ‘Black Lives Matter’ and have hijacked the movement for their own ideology, and this is where the political comments above come from.

I can assure you though, not one player at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday was kneeling in support of that political ideology. People who conflate the minor political organisations and the wider anti-racism are harming the anti-racism movement no matter how much they protest that they aren’t.

They are either doing it naively, and should retract and state their support of the players, or they are doing it purposely because they themselves are racist, and for this they need to be challenged.

“Totally 100% disagree with it and should be kept out of rugby full stop. My support of the Blues have gone and I’ll not watch a single game until kneeling Is removed from all sports its not needed or called for, disgusted.”

“Who said what happened to Floyd was a racist incident except the colour of the people involved. People can make there own judgement about life without having to be pressured into gestures of this nature. I can’t see much racism in rugby over the last thirty years.”

“I do not agree with kneeing for this cause – I only knee to my wife (to be) and my Queen. We should not all be subjected to the public image – it is unnecessary and those private views should be kept private.”

“if they do, I for one will not be renewing my season ticket!”

“why is it that anybody who has the slightest criticism of black people is immediately branded a racists, why dont you lot grow up”

“Did I just read that the players kneeled before the game? has no place in the game”

“the biggest racists are the black people themselves, they all hate white people, they protest violently when a black man is killed by a white man but say nothing when white people are killed by black people, they also conveniently forget that 95% of homicides in America are carried out by black men. If they want my sympathy and support they should start acting like sensible adults and get the chip off their shoulders”

Beyond those naive comments or attempts to politicise the Black Lives Matter movement in order to discredit it, there were an alarming amount of either thinly veiled or just outright racist comments.

I should say that these people were and are generally in the minority, but the fact that any comments are there at all is disgusting.

Cardiff Rugby does have an unfortunate history with racism. Steve Coombs wrote an excellent piece on Cardiff’s Rugby League players for the CF10 Arms Park Rugby Trust recently, particularly mentioning the overlooking of Billy Boston from Butetown who went on to become a legend of the 13-a-side game.

The club that I know in the modern day though is a welcoming environment for all genders and races. The Community Foundation works hard with children of all backgrounds, while the supporters on the terraces have taken multiple BAME players to their hearts.

Fa’ao Filise, Ma’ama Molitika, Casey Laulala, Willis Halaholo, Rey Lee-Lo and Nick Williams, to name a few, are real favourites at the Arms Park, while there is great support for young players like Ben Thomas and those coming through the pathway like Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Theo Cabango.

People who claim to be supporters but post comments or hold opinions like those above are simply not welcome to be a part of our great club. If players taking a knee is enough to stop you supporting then don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Yes rugby can be an escape from every day life, but it is not a safe space for racists.

I am proud of the response to these comments on Facebook, and of every player who took a knee at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday. We must continue the fight against racism.

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