Sachin Nakrani: “Paul Pogba’s ‘pace and power’ stresses need for rethink over BAME coverage”

By | January 22, 2019

In an insightful opinion piece published in yesterday’s Guardian, sports writer Sachin Nakrani criticizes the tendency to write of black soccer/football players in a way that emphasizes these players’ brute strength over their technique. This kind of coverage, Nakrani argues, “feeds into narrative that follows black athletes around, namely that their primary attributes are physical rather than creative or intellectual.” He uses the example of Guinean-French footballer Paul Pogba to illustrate his point. As far as soccer players go, Pogba is not an especially large man. Yet much of the coverage of him emphasizes his “power” and “strength” over his skill. There is a long history behind the stereotype of black people as a physically hardy, but unintelligent, “race.” This stereotype is rooted in the form of African chattel slavery that developed in the seventeenth-century Americas. Proponents of slavery argued that African people’s “inferior” intelligence and (supposed) superhuman strength rendered them suited for grueling plantation labor in the ‘New World.’ Even if modern-day sportswriters are not intending to be racist, they inadvertently replicate this stereotype when they downplay black players’ intellect and overemphasize their size and strength. Nakrani urges readers to rethink the racist assumptions that underly the language we use when we write about black athletes.

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