Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Michael Holding on BLM: “I think there is more talk than action in England and that doesn’t surprise me”

Posted on 16 April 2021 by Colin Benjamin

Legendary West Indies fast bowler and veteran Sky Sports commentator Michael Holding believes English society and the sports media establishment are showing more talk than action in response to racism incidents to football players in the Premier League, regarding the ongoing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Holding recently won the Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA) Award for Best Pundit in 2020 for his powerful testimony about racial injustice in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, on Sky Cricket’s coverage of England against West Indies in July 2020. He was speaking to the Sports Gazette reflecting on the year in English football giving his view particularly on the stance of some black players deciding not to kneel, alongside the recent decision by some clubs and players to come off social media totally and do a social media blackout.

“There are two sides to this situation. My argument with regards to Wilfried Zaha, Brentford Football Club and whoever else feels the need to stop taking a knee is, I support the position totally. What they are saying is, ‘What is the point of kneeling if that’s all that’s happening?’ They want action, they want people to support the movement”, said Holding.

He continued: “If people are not going to support the movement or put things in place to make changes, especially the social networks who do nothing about blocking racist remarks towards players – why kneel if that’s all that’s taking place?”

Holding’s much anticipated book, “Why We Kneel How We Rise” – in which he speaks his mind forcefully on the topic, will include interviews with high profile black athletes such Usain Bolt, Adam Goodes, Thierry Henry, Michael Johnson, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Makhaya Ntini, Naomi Osaka and Hope Powell – was recently teased on Twitter by publishers Simon & Schuster UK ahead of its June 24th publication.

The 67-year-old Jamaican, who has experienced British society as a player from his first tour with the West Indies cricket team in 1976, working with Sky Sports since 1998 and ceremonial President of Derbyshire County Cricket Club in 2017  used examples from how the United States has responded to the BLM to further his point.

“What we need is support from companies and organizations like what we see in America. JP Morgan, Amazon, Bank of America, Nike – to name a few have put money and programs in place to help black and coloured people in America – I don’t see that happening in England yet”, said Holding.

“I think there is more talk than action in England and that doesn’t surprise me to be honest. For one, there are more black people in America than England, so it makes more economical sense for American companies to get involved, although that should not be the primary consideration.”

According to the USA and United Kingdom government data, 13.4 % of the USA population is black while 3 % of UK population is black

Embed from Getty Images

Holding continued: “People in England who don’t want to support the Black Lives Matter movement don’t have to, because it is easy for them to say it won’t affect me if I don’t because of the statistics quoted earlier.

“But one would hope they would see the humanitarian aspect of it and not just the economics. After all, we are talking about human beings.”

Looking at the media landscape, Holding praised Sky Sports for its BLM awareness campaign and regularly having the logo and television personalities wearing the BLM badge on its platform, but wondered why other networks have not done the same and whether it was because they don’t believe Black Lives Matter.

“What we need in the UK is more people who want to get involved, who see injustice and want to make a difference and this is exactly what Sky Sports is doing. I’m not seeing a lot of people or organizations joining with Sky publicly.

“This is not political, this is a humanitarian effort and if organizations can’t associate with that and see it as a positive, I can’t support you. 

“Maybe it’s because the United Kingdom’s history as a society goes back too deep into the transatlantic slave trade which is causing this slow action amongst British entities. Maybe because they did not import slaves to the United Kingdom themselves and have not seen the real impact on the black man, as the Americans have seen in their own country, they haven’t felt the need to move as fast as America. But at some point people have to accept this ain’t right”, Holding concluded.