(Reuters) - West Indies bowling great Michael Holding wants more sportspeople to step forward and speak out against racism because they have an important platform, he said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference on Wednesday.
Holding said it was important that public figures used their celebrity and status to get across important messages, particularly on racism.
"If people who have a platform and who are able to reach out and get people to listen and people to understand, say nothing, then who will?” he asked.
“There are sportspeople who are well known throughout the entire world. If they get up and say something, people around the world will want to hear what they have to say and will want to try to understand what they had to say.
“And that's the reason why people with a platform, people with a name, people that are recognised all over the world, need to speak up about things that affect them and affect the world," Holding said.
Holding, regarded as one of cricket’s authoritative commentators and regularly used by broadcasters worldwide, has spoken out extensively on racism since an emotive plea for society to change its attitudes following the murder in May 2020 in the United States of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer. Floyd's death led to the Black Lives Matter movement going global.
He has published a book “Why we Kneel, How We Rise” which covers racism in sport and has contributions from several high profile Black athletes.
He said athletes should not have to confine their opinions to sporting matters.
“When they leave the arena, or the basketball courts, they have to go back into society to live a normal life. If they are affected by society, they have to speak up and use their platform.”
Holding also said there was a danger that the recent accusations of racism in English county cricket would be compartmentalised into “small boxes” when they were part of a larger societal problem.
“We know it's a cricket problem, because it's happening now in cricket. But don't put it in a little box because it's comfortable to put it in a box. It's not only football or cricket has a (racism) problem. It's a society that has a problem. And that is what we need to fix, that’s we need to start. If we can accept that it's society and not try to put it in small boxes, then we can get somewhere.”
Holding said education ensured unconscious bias and required urgent review, with governments needing to take the lead.
“The history of mankind has not been taught, what has been taught is what suits our particular narrative. And that narrative is white superiority. Everything taught, even in Africa, in the Caribbean, where I'm from, highlights what white folks have done.
“But what about what people of colour have done? They don't teach that. And that is why I highlighted in my book, so many discoveries, so many innovations, so many things that people of colour have done, that they need to teach.
"People must recognise that it's all folks from different denominations and from different sectors and different parts of the world have done great things,” Holding told the Reuters Next conference.
To watch the Reuters Next conference please register here https://reutersevents.com/events/next
(Reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Grant McCool)