Last week Black History Month celebrations at Eton saw Jason Lee speak to the Sports Society, where he discussed racism in football and his role at the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).
Mr Lee was a successful footballer himself, appearing in 621 games and scoring 125 goals, as well as playing in the Premier League for Nottingham Forest. He has transitioned into his role at the PFA as Equalities Education Executive, which includes speaking with players and managers about equality and diversity, and protecting professionals under the 2010 Equality Act.
The #enough campaign, aimed at addressing racist social media abuse against players, has been a particular focus. In fact, social media firms now work with groups of players to monitor their accounts for abuse and punish the perpetrators.
Similarly, the RunRepeat campaign, which deals with racial bias in commentary, conducted research into language used by commentators when describing players. The findings concluded that black players were attributed with ‘speed’ and ‘power’, in contrast to white players whose ‘intelligence’ and ‘leadership ability’ were often highlighted.
Representation in football continues to be an issue, and “increased representation of black players was a great step forward”. Mr Lee remarked that he would like to see this happen in coaching next, providing opportunities for black coaches and managers to progress. Role models such as Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford have really helped to defy stereotypes, proving their willingness to raise awareness of issues, influence governing bodies and push for change.
We thank Mr Lee for such an impactful online discussion, a timely reminder of the need for respect and kindness.