England Rugby Union fans are facing calls to ban the traditional ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ over its links to slavery. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the England Rugby Union (RFU) have begun to explore banning the song over its historical context.
Rugby union bosses in England are to carry out a review into the "historical context" of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – an anthem regularly sung by thousands of fans during matches at Twickenham https://t.co/X1AyzjuqHw— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 19, 2020
RFU bosses are set to carry out a review into a song that is sung regularly by England Rugby Union fans at Twickenham. The review comes in the wake of the social justice movement sweeping the U.K., in the wake of the global protest over the killing of George Floyd in the U.S. The movement has led to sporting organisations across the U.K. to examine their historical links and increase diversity.
The song originates in the 19th century with the RFU determined to educate fans about its origins and the true meaning behind the song. An RFU spokesman spoke of their attempt to educate English rugby fans:
“The Swing Low, Sweet Chariot song has long been part of the culture of rugby and is sung by many who have no awareness of its origins or sensitivities. The RFU has stated we need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness.”
A freed Oklahoma slave, Wallace Willis, was credited with the song in the 19th century but it wasn’t sung in England until the late 1980s, first sung at Twickenham in a tribute to English player Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah during a sevens tournament. When Chris Oti, another black player, scored a hattrick against Ireland, the song was adopted by English rugby fans.
Offiah, the player who originally inspired the song, told BBC Radio he was against the potential ban.
“I know the RFU are planning to review this song and I champion reviewing it, but I wouldn’t support the banning of such a song. When you do try to ban things like that it makes the song more divisive,” Offiah said.
"I wouldn't support banning the song. That makes the song more divisive.''— BBC Radio 5 Live (@bbc5live) June 19, 2020
The Rugby Football Union is reviewing England fans use of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.@martinoffiah told #5LiveBreakfast that it's more about educating the fans.
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