George Floyd protests: No sustained progress behind anti-racism in sport, says John Amaechi
"There are things you can do [...] I do not need to tolerate having racists around me [...] nobody will credit you for it. But it will make a difference."
By Roger Clarke and Husmukh Kerai
Last Updated: 24/06/20 4:34pm
John Amaechi says there has not been enough sustained progress behind anti-racism efforts in sport because organisations continue to purposefully abdicate their responsibility for societal change.
Amaechi, a former NBA star, now an organisational psychologist, consultant and motivational speaker, spoke exclusively to Sky Sports News to discuss institutional racism in sport and how anti-racists can make a genuine difference.
Momentum behind anti-racist movements such as Black Lives Matter appears to have increased in the wake of George Floyd's death, but he insists the same efforts have been ongoing for generations without the necessary societal changes.
"This conversation was had after Sandra Bland, after Ferguson, after Rodney King in 1991 and here we are again," he said.
"There is no inertia behind anti-racism. I know it feels like there is right now. Please understand, I am so grateful that people have been vociferous and made commitments about future anti-racism. We need you, do that.
"But there is no inertia here. Black people and our allies have been pushing the boulder of racism up a hill to try and dump it off the other end. At times like this other people come in and put their hands on that boulder.
"For a moment it feels like we are moving a little bit faster but then life gets in the way, the media moves on and the same people are left pushing that boulder that has not reduced in size."
'What anti-racist allies can do to help'
"For people watching [reading] there are things you can do, they are going to feel really unsatisfying.
"Look at [your] sphere of influence, your friends, your peers and families. Declare you are anti-racist and these are the standards I will hold myself to and demand others hold me to.
"Although love is unconditional, proximity isn't. I do not need to tolerate having racists around me.
"That 'cleansing' of people around you, nobody will reward you for it. They'll laugh at you, call you politically correct, nobody will credit you for it. But it will make a difference."
'Sport abdicates responsibility - it doesn't offer hope'
"Sport has usually abdicated quite purposefully its responsibility for societal change. Most organised sport loves to talk about how they are a product of society rather than something that is informative to society, instinctively we all know that is not true.
"I don't have huge hope here. If what we are saying is that all the black people in sport should play a role, then I think all prominent role models - all people whose voices are disproportionately heard - should have a principle that they take on racism. They should be explicit about that, that they are going to be anti-racist.
"For sport to really make an impact, that is not enough. Organisations have to reform themselves so they are not perpetuating internally systemic racism and bias of other kinds.
"For society to change, a myriad of different institutions have to have an impact which comes through economic policy, policing, health care and housing, all of this.
"For an organisation which has one job - which is to put on football games - you need to make sure your recruitment and retention policies don't discriminate, that succession within your organisation is going to happen equally. You can monitor that data like you can't in wider society, so change is significantly easier.
"When they do change and when they stand and shout and say racism isn't appropriate, they have a leg to stand on because they themselves aren't being hypocrites."
'NFL messaging a cruel irony'
"I'm not against people using social media to make their stand explicit, it's just that it's not enough, it doesn't end there.
"Just because you get a few 'likes' or some people are sending you a heart for doing the right thing in this moment, the real test is looking at your environment. Is it an environment that is welcoming to all, that makes it clear we really are a meritocracy where the best talent will progress regardless of your accent, your background, your ability, your disability, your gender, and things like that? That's what counts.
"The NFL example is different. That is cruel irony. They have constructively dismissed an excellent athlete, a principled man in Colin Kaepernick. Now they want to stand against racism? They had their opportunity to do that when he knelt."