black sportsmen and women

black sportsmen and women
   Britain boasts an impressive array of black sportsmen and women in the 1990s, with some of the problems they face having declined (albeit slowly) since their arrival in mainstream professional sport in the late 1970s. Since then, the England football team has picked a black captain and the England cricket side has featured many black players, as have rugby and athletics. There is also the heavy concentration of black competitors in boxing, though this might reflect the generally lower incomes of black people in Britain. Most sports have come a long way since the late 1970s, but football has made particular progress. Here the trend setters were West Bromwich Albion, with their classy trio of Batson, Regis and Cunningham, but most clubs would not pick blacks until the 1980s. The first black England player was Viv Anderson in 1978, but this did not stop abuse from fans and team mates. John Barnes was told by right-wing fans in 1984 that goals by black players ‘do not count’. Spectator racism has long been a problem in cricket, rugby league and football, with abuse from fans a regular part of the black performer’s career.
   Black sportswomen are less well known (sportswomen generally have a lower media profile), though many of the best British women athletes such as Ashia Hansen, Kelly Holmes and Diane Modahl are black. However, athletics is the one sport where black women have succeeded. Generally there are no, or very few, black competitors in British golf, tennis, swimming or hockey.
   The situation has clearly improved since the offensive attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s, when many coaches believed black players could not perform in the cold, only had pace and power, and would upset dressing room harmony by not tolerating racist ‘jokes’ from colleagues. However, in the commercialized world of British sport in the 1980s and 1990s, the question of race became less important, and commercial opportunities in the 1990s are now open to black competitors if their sport’s profile is high enough. Yet some sports still lack any top level black participants, and the ‘genetic’ abilities of black players are still sometimes questioned, as is their loyalty to their team. Black sportspeople are not yet treated like whites, but with the current generation proving so successful, and with high profile anti-racism campaigns getting backing from top black performers in the 1990s, the situation should improve further.
   See also: athletics; sport, racism in
   Further reading
    Cashmore, E. (1982) Black Sportsmen, London: Routledge.
   REX NASH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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