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  • Writer's picturePreeti Bonthron

Mandy McGreevy: "Why is it that when something goes wrong, race and colour play a role in sport?"

I grew up in a traditional Indian family in a predominantly white area of Birmingham, UK, with a father who was an avid football fan. Thanks to him, sport was a massive part of my childhood.

I was always encouraged to take part in sports whether this was representing my school in athletics or playing netball. On weekends, my dad would take us to watch his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers play, so, sport is a part of my DNA.

As a child, I was lucky enough to meet one of my sporting heroes, Steve Bull. Whilst this is a cherished memory of mine, it also demonstrates the lack of representation of minority groups within sport at that time.

Fast forward to present day.

This year, I was super excited to see the names of Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts as the first two Black starting quarterbacks in one of the NFL’s biggest games. They faced each other in this year’s Super Bowl 57 which saw Mahomes take his Kansas City Chiefs to victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

This historic moment has caught the attention of football fans and those who view two Black quarterbacks playing in the Super Bowl as a marker of progress toward equity.

But is it really, considering that more than half of NFL players are people of colour?

The NFL season began with a record 11 Black starting quarterbacks.

Whilst this is a great milestone, I had to take a step back and think about why this is only happening now, 56 years on from Super Bowl 1?

Black players, including these quarterbacks, work relentlessly to break decades of stigma surrounding their chances at securing a quarterback position in the NFL.

In 2021, 58% of players within the NFL were either Black or African American. Why is it that in 2023, most quarterbacks are White?

Is it because of what people are comfortable seeing or does it come down to a lack of opportunity for Black athletes?

There was a belief that Black players were not smart enough to play the ultimate thinking man's position and that White players have more upper body strength and, therefore, could throw further. I truly believe it’s the result of stereotyping and biases that come with Black quarterbacks.

Another one of my most recent sporting heroes is 7-time Formula 1 World Champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton, not only for his performance on the track but for his work outside of F1 with Mission 44.

For me, Lewis represents the present and the future of modern sports, building a legacy for underrepresented groups. Being the greatest of all time is one thing, but being black and the greatest of all time is another. Leaving a legacy for young people from underrepresented groups to follow in his footsteps is just as important as his sporting achievements on the track.

Does racism still exist in sport?

Euro 2020 should have been a moment in English history making it to a final, however, for me, it’ll be the day when I realised how quick people turn to colour.

When three of our Black English players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka received online racial abuse after missing their penalties, giving Italy the win. Rather than receiving the praise that their teammates experienced, they faced a backlash of racist abuse, all because they were Black.

Why, when something goes wrong, does race and colour then play a role?

I can only imagine the pressure to deliver felt by every sportsperson but when you’re a minority representing your country, why does that automatically become harder?

At any level, but especially at the highest professional level, representation is important!

A young White boy whose passion is football is spoilt for choice in terms of representation because approximately 60% of footballers in the Premier League are White.

Compare that to a young Indian girl who also shares that same passion. There is a lack of representation which doesn’t deliver the confidence for her to take the same path as that young boy.

Young people feel more inspired when they can see people like themselves who are high profile sporting athletes. Although steps are being taken, they’re not being taken quick enough.

The present-day sporting achievement of people like Lewis Hamilton, Patrick Mahone and Jalen Hurts show how far we’ve come. However, as we continue to break biases, it’s very clear there’s still a lot of work needing to be done when it comes to race and ethnicity within sports.

Mandy McGreevy is the Learning and Development Manager at DIAL Global and a proud Birmingham resident. Being born into a Sikh family but marrying a White British male really brought the Race and Ethnicity facet to life for her and she now loves to break the stereotypes and biases within this space. Mandy is also an extreme sports enthusiast with an undying love for Formula1, football, IPL, NFL and when none of them are on, darts.

Interested in hearing more about race and the ethnicity in sports? Join us for our DIAL Lounge on the 28th of Feb at 11 AM.

Free to attend. Register here

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