Let’s talk about the race with Cox, Frazier and Lancico.

Since George Floyd’s death in 2020, sports organizations and leagues around the world have become more open about race, diversity and inclusion. But how much has it really changed?

Sport organised a video link-up with four-time Olympic champion and leading British athlete Donna Fraser, two-time Paralympic champion Kadina Cox and silver medallist at the 4x100m World Championships Imani-Lara Lancico. Cox and Lancico are the lawyers for the British athletes.

Do you feel more comfortable talking about race now?

Lancico: Absolutely. Racism is not something that exists only in 2020. He was always there. And I’ve certainly experienced situations, both inside and outside the party room, where I felt less worthy because of the color of my skin. And I think what’s so great about dealing with a tragic moment like George Floyd’s is that the world comes together and talks about something really unpleasant. It creates that space of love and acceptance where you can talk about it. I think in the past I’ve personally been very afraid to do that. Because you don’t want to be labeled or attacked for what you say. And I feel like last year we had a place where people were willing to listen.

Fraser: As an organization, we need to dig a little deeper and integrate [race, diversity and inclusion] into how we behave and how we talk to others. It’s about people, treating them fairly and accepting them in their differences.

Imani-Lara Lansiquot finished fourth in the 100m at the 2016 U20 World Championships.

Diversity in Athletics

Coke: There is a lot of variety in the athletes. But if you look at management, coaching and boards, there’s not much diversity. I think there should be diversity in these roles.

I think athletics is ahead of a lot of other sports right now. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a long way to go. Because as we’ve seen in [British athletics], let’s talk about racing, a lot of things have come out where people have found problems, you know, feel like they’re being treated in a way that they shouldn’t be.

Is there the same diversity in the north?

Coke: There is a big difference [between the north and south of England]. When you get past the Yorkshire Championship and the Northern Championship and get to the British Championship, it’s, oh wow, variety!

Sometimes I feel like you have to be a different person – you kind of become the person that belongs. But we had a mutually supportive network; we all seemed to be moving forward together. You cling to a community of people who understand you and are like you. Because up north, it’s very different from down south.

Kadeena Cox does athletics and cycling.

What microaggressions or prejudices have you experienced as a Black woman in athletics?

Coke: One of the things that really bothers me is the comments about my hair. For example, that your hair is unkempt or Oh, what is it? Just little comments that I find so inappropriate. Sometimes I am: Is this really necessary? But you know, as a black woman, you learn to ignore these things, which you don’t.

Fraser: It is up to us to take responsibility, to stand up and say: Actually no, what you just said is wrong. You know you insulted me and everything? Establish trust and create an environment where people feel comfortable asking for support.

During her running career, Donna Fraser has competed in four Olympic Games and won two World Championship medals in the 400m relay.

Lancico: There is a stigma and stereotype around sprinters because it is a very intense competition. It’s a pretty aggressive event. Lots of testosterone. It’s fast. I think when I talk to former athletes and my teammates, they are afraid of being pushed against the wall by an angry black girl. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the passion of wanting to be number one and win. Especially in the relay we are very driven to come together and get a medal or go for gold. And sometimes this is misinterpreted as diva or overly aggressive. And I think that was pretty common among black athletes.

Fraser: You have to talk about the person, not his qualities. You will not say there is an Imani, a black girl, you will just say there is an Imani from Britain. It’s just different terminology, different language, and one of my annoyances is when they keep talking – because I have for years – about 36-year-old Donna Fraser, a seasoned athlete in athletics! That’s great. I’m just Donna the athlete.

Coke: Funny you should say that, because I turn 30 next week and I’m afraid they’ll say I’m 30 during the games.

Fraser: They will be!

Cox won two gold medals at the Rio Paralympic Games.

How much has changed in sport in the last year, and especially since May 25 and the death of George Floyd?

Lancico: Huge. Just having this space and platform to talk about things we didn’t like to talk about in the past is a big step forward.

Coke: I feel that in the past, when I have expressed my feelings about a particular country, someone has expressed their displeasure and nothing has been done. And I don’t think people are afraid to come forward. But I think one of the big things right now is that people feel comfortable saying something and knowing they’re being heard. If we go to a game, now there’s someone we can go to. – You can go to anyone! Because everyone is coached.

Imani-Lara Lansiquot has become a silver medallist in the 4x100m relay at the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

Lancico: Now if you are in a community where people are not used to seeing black people or feel uncomfortable, you can talk to any employee, black or not. And they know what to do. This system makes a big difference in the way we work. It’s little things like that that drive us as a sport. And that’s not to say that we know we have a long way to go. But I think we should recognize how far you’ve come in your field in less than a year. And we have developed an action plan for the next Olympics that states exactly where we want to be in terms of diversity, inclusion and equality.

Fraser: I think we also have to realize that if these athletes go to certain countries and have horrible experiences, we can’t change that culture. We can’t do that. But what we can do as a national umbrella organisation is create a support network for them. The fact that they can unload, park and then continue their performance is absolutely essential in my opinion.

The video call was moderated by Miriam Walker-Hahn.

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