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July 1, 2020

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Study points to racial bias in TV broadcasts of English leagues

The players’ union in England believes racial bias is evident during broadcasts of matches based on the language used by commentators in European leagues.

The study conducted by Danish research firm RunRepeat in association with the Professional Footballers’ Association found 63 percent of praise regarding a player’s intelligence was aimed at those with lighter skin, while 63 percent of criticism for a player’s intelligence was aimed at those with darker skin tones. The findings also show that 60 percent of praise for work rate was directed at lighter-skinned players.

The study looked at 80 matches in the English Premier League as well as the top divisions in Italy, Spain and France this season. They analyzed 2,073 statements made by broadcasters speaking in English working for media outlets in Britain, the United States and Canada.

It also said commentators were about seven times more likely to talk about a darker-skinned player in reference to power, and three times more likely to talk about darker-skinned players in reference to speed.

“To address the real impact of structural racism, we have to acknowledge and address racial bias. This study shows an evident bias in how we describe the attributes of footballers based on their skin color,” PFA equalities executive Jason Lee said. “Commentators help shape the perception we hold of each player, deepening viewers’ already-held racial bias.”

The union wants media organizations to provide training on unconscious bias to staff to promote diversity.

“When you’re playing football and someone is painting the picture that you’re powerful, you’re quick, you’re aggressive, they’re great traits to have,” Lee pointed out, “but you’re not saying ‘industrious, intelligent, creative’ — you’re not using that terminology.

“Already it’s living up to that stereotype of black athletes — you can’t always say that a black athlete is going to be quick and is going to be strong. If you keep stigmatizing people and saying this, that and the other, how is that athlete going to go from the training and playing field and be taken seriously as maybe a coach, a manager or another position of power?”


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