London Lions team captain Joe Ikhinmwin says “there is a lot of backlash to even acknowledging racism exists”; team share findings of survey with Sky Sports News; 42 per cent of people from ethnically diverse backgrounds say they do not feel their culture is represented in sporting icons
By Rebecca Williams
Last Updated: 27/04/21 6:03am
Forty-one per cent of people from ethnic minority backgrounds say they are hesitant to attend live sporting events because of fear of racial and physical abuse, according to new research.
The survey, carried out by the London Lions basketball team and shared exclusively with Sky Sports News, obtained the views of 2,000 sports fans from different age groups and backgrounds.
With racism an important factor in many sporting conversations around the world, one of the UK’s most diverse sports teams is shining a light on their experiences.
London Lions captain Joe Ikhinmwin is playing in his eighth season in a row with the team.
He told Sky Sports News: “More people are becoming aware of the difficulties that other races are facing. But at the same time there is still a lot of backlash to even acknowledging that racism is still here in 2021, when it is.
“Lots of people will try and say that it is not real and dispute that the experiences of other people don’t come down to racism, when they do. So I feel like that is a major issue.”
His team-mate Shane Walker has experience of playing across Europe as well as a successful period with Leicester Riders.
Walker said: “Eighty per cent of the league that I play in – the British Basketball League – is black. We just want to be represented fairly, which I don’t think we are. We are not given high-up positions, we are not given intellectual positions.”
The British Basketball League is in the process of setting up a forum for players. But it was the strength of feeling among those representing the London Lions that prompted the team to commission the research.
Forty-two per cent of ethnically diverse respondents said they do not feel their culture is represented by sporting icons around today.
Lions fan Ish Gwegweni highlights the importance of diversity in different sports in the UK. “Whenever I personally see a black man in cricket, it’s like: ‘Wow, that’s incredible, someone that looks similar to me has made it this far’,” he said.
Footballers like Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose and England rugby forward Maro Itoje have criticised the media over inconsistent coverage of black athletes recently.
Twenty-three per cent of respondents from diverse ethnic communities said they felt young black athletes are misrepresented in the media, in comparison to 13 per cent of white respondents.
“I feel like the media play a huge role in spinning whatever narrative they believe is right or whatever they believe is wrong”, said the team’s captain Ikhinmwin, who started playing basketball as a teenager.
“They have a responsibility as organisations that reach millions of people to paint a fair and equal picture for white athletes, black athletes … that is important. They play a massive role and I feel like there are lots of organisations that are not fulfilling it.”
The sporting world has certainly marked the Black Lives Matter movement in different ways. But the London Lions survey raises concerns about the fears fans from diverse communities have when attending live sporting events.
“It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest,” said Sky Sports’ basketball presenter Mo Mooncey.
“When I was a kid I was into football and basketball and all sports. But whenever I asked my dad to go to a football game he wouldn’t want to take me.
“He would tell me about the experiences he had at football games and the things people have said and the type of abuse people like us and people from other backgrounds have suffered.”
The research by the London Lions shows divisions still clearly exist within sport. But they hope by speaking about it openly their research can raise awareness and inspire change.