“You have to do something in your life that is honorable and not cowardly if you are to live in peace with yourself.”
This quote by NBA winning coach Larry Brown must have had a deep impact on Colin Kaepernick, the NFL footballer who brought to light the injustices done to the black community in the USA when he knelt for the national anthem.
In retrospect, Kaepernick’s actions in 2016 would be a premonition four years later when George Floyd Death in Minneapolis due to police brutality is currently burning the United States of America.
The death of Floyd has also highlighted the racial inequality of Black Americans and thus, on every social media platform, #BlackLivesMatter is trending heavily.
Support from all but ICC
The death of Floyd has caused massive outrage in the United States, with many sporting personalities from the NBA, NFL, MLS all supporting #BlackLivesMatter.
In the UK, England cricket unfurled a banner on their social media pages saying “Say No to Racism” while Liverpool FC players formed a circle in the centre of the football field and knelt to show support.
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has also shown support to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. WWE also put out a statement on Facebook condemning the incident.
However, when it comes to cricket, barring a few notable exceptions, the ICC is silent.
More importantly, India’s top sporting personalities have maintained a ‘head in the sand’ approach. This should come as no surprise.
Nothing surprising on India’s silence
Darren Sammy, the former West Indies skipper who has always spoken his mind, has lambasted the ICC for being silent on the issue. Chris Gayle also highlighted the issue.
In India, Abhinav Mukund and Dodda Ganesh also spoke about racism. However, majority of India’s elite sporting personalities have remained silent.
As this is being written, there is an outrage on Twitter that Yuvraj Singh should apologise to Yuzvendra Chahal. In a casual chat with Rohit Sharma on Instagram, Yuvraj called Chahal a ‘B****I’, a derogatory casteist slur.
The word casual is important here. Following the exchange, both Yuvraj and Rohit laughed. His comments found support from a significant portion.
In a way, to expect our sporting icons to speak about #BlackLivesMatter is oxymoronic. Our warped society is in no position to talk about this.
The horrible racism demonstrated towards African students studying in India is a big example. In 2007, a promo telecast before the India vs West Indies ODI series depicted black people in a terrible way.
Across India, racial slurs on looks, caste, occupation and even location is spouted daily as casual racism. The people from North East India, even from the South face this every day.
Sportsmen come from within this society. Expecting them to go against the norm is too much to ask. Indian society is averse to change and our sporting icons follow this to the norm.
‘Not Good for Business’
“No teams wanted to sign a player — even one as talented as Kaepernick — whom they saw as controversial, and, therefore, bad for business,” wrote former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. The last point of ‘bad for business’ is important in the Indian scheme of things.
There is plenty of money riding on India’s cricketers and elite sporting personalities. Most of them are also tied with the government functioning of sporting federations.
Thus, if they say anything about government, their funding and career will be halted. Thus, when their voice is muzzled against government criticism, speaking about racism will be a double-edged sword as they will be accused of double standards.
Not everyone can use a sportsperson’s clout and make a big statement like Kaepernick. Not everyone can speak their mind like Darren Sammy. They have been isolated but are not silenced.
But in India, sporting personalities will be silenced and isolated. India’s silence on #BlackLivesMatter is on expected lines because that is how our society and moral outlook is.