A number England internationals have reacted to the RFU’s decision to review the historical context around Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, because of the song’s links to slavery.
Martin Offiah told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I wouldn’t support banning the song. That makes the song more divisive.”
"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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“I was proud to be associated with the song but I think now is the time to educate fans about the song. It’s better if this review leads the RFU to address decisions about diversity.”
An RFU spokesperson said: “The RFU has stated we need to do more to achieve diversity and we are determined to accelerate change and grow awareness. 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. We are reviewing its historical context and our role in educating fans to make informed decisions.”
Maggie Alphonsi said: “I wouldn’t tell people to stop singing it, because you have to educate people and let them decide for themselves. I personally don’t think it should be banned but I think the RFU are right to conduct a review.
“I’m not sure how old I was, but a teammate told me about the song after a game we had played. It wasn’t a huge moment for me, but got me thinking afterwards. I used to sing it all the time as a player and a fan, but after that I stopped because it didn’t sit right with me.
“My only regret was that no one had told me about it earlier.”
She added: “That’s the wider issue; education. Teach people about the song, about slavery, about our country’s colonial past and let them form their opinions based on all the facts.”
“I don’t want smaller things to distract from the actual agenda. I want to get more people from BAME backgrounds in the sport. More diversity and inclusion in influential to be in positions of influence. That’s what I’m fighting for.”
Maro Itoje, one of England’s star players, spoke about the anthem on Tuesday. In an interview with the Daily Mail Sport the 25-year-old said: “I don’t think anyone at Twickenham is singing it with malicious intent, but the background of that song is complicated. The need is to make rugby more open to all.”