sport news Commentators fear they will be branded racist after list of banned words was ...

Some commentators feel they are 'walking on eggshells' and risk being caught up in a race controversy after receiving new instructions on language they should avoid.

All major broadcasters put commentators through an 'avoiding racial bias' training session last week, with words and phrases including 'cakewalk', 'nitty gritty', 'sold down the river' and 'uppity' among those prohibited.

Details of the online meeting led one experienced former commentator to reflect that 'he would not want to be in the business now', while another currently working at games said he feared 'fingers being pointed' and a logistical minefield, as mental calculations are impossible when calling games. 

Some commentators feared being dragged into a race war due to a new list of banned words

Some commentators feared being dragged into a race war due to a new list of banned words

The news that a number of phrases have racist origins surprised some. But instructions that describing a player as having 'pace and power' could be a form of racial stereotyping are also seen as challenging.

The commentator, who was at last week's online training session, said: 'No one is trying to offend anyone but it becomes very difficult. I think back to one game last season when I described a BAME player as very powerful because that's what I saw. Of course you want to ensure that you are not causing offence and reflecting a diverse audience when you commentate. But this does feel like you're walking on eggshells.'

Seb Hutchinson, who became the first black commentator to call a game for the Premier League's international television feed last season, said that there was no problem describing 'pace and power' as long as it is put into the context of a player's other attributes and that the new guidelines should not be used as a stick to beat colleagues.

All major broadcasters put commentators through an ‘avoiding racial bias’ training session

All major broadcasters put commentators through an 'avoiding racial bias' training session


All of the copy below has been taken from the BBC's Avoiding Racial Bias guide, as seen by Sportsmail:

CAKEWALK – The cakewalk originated as a dance performed by enslaved black people on plantations before the American Civil War. Owners held contests in which slaves competed for a cake.

Alternatives – 'this is turning into a breeze, a walk in the park...'

NITTY GRITTY – Thought to refer to the detritus found in the bottom of boats once a shipment of slaves had been removed from the hold. The 'nit' refers to a parasitic insect – the 'grits' are the grain which would have been used as a cheap foodstuff to keep a slave ship's cargo barely fed.

Alternatives – 'the basic facts', 'the most important aspects or practical details', 'the key parts or substance'

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER – In the 19th century, black slaves were literally sold down the river to plantation owners further south where brutal conditions awaited. The use of that phrase in a sporting context waters down that association it has with slavery.

Alternatives – 'that back pass left the keeper with no chance', 'put the keeper in an impossible position'

UPPITY – A word used by white people during racial segregation in the USA to describe black people they believed weren't showing them enough deference. Black men and women were lynched by white mobs for seeming 'too uppity'.

Alternatives – 'agitated', 'chirpy', 'jumpy', 'uptight', 'troubled', 'perturbed', 'het up'


Ask yourself now what the reaction might be to words/phrases like 'blackballed', 'blacklist', 'black mark', 'whiter than white'? Can you understand why someone might associate black = bad, white = good?

There are alternatives:

BLACKBALLED/BLACKLISTED – rejected, shunned, excluded, barred, snubbed.

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