“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” – Colin Kaepernick (Nike Ad 2018)
In the year 2021 food shortages should not exist. Food Banks should not exist. Marcus Rashford should not have to campaign his own government to provide food to their own citizens.
In an ideal world, Marcus Rashford can focus fully on his football and governments can focus on providing the essentials of life to their citizens. If the last 2 years have taught us anything, this world is far from ideal.
The comments made by his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer about how “Marcus has done some remarkable and fantastic things. But now he maybe needs to prioritise his football” are perhaps tone deaf at best and crass at worse.
In a country where it has been reported by their own waste advisory body that their “households waste 4.5m tonnes of food a year that could have been eaten, worth £14bn.” there may be more important priorities than football.
Whilst this fact should be worthy of a national scandal itself, the fact that it took a 23-year-old footballer to shame his own government in providing food to 1.3 million school children, to ensure they didn’t go hungry over their school break is awe striking.
Rashford, an outlier in the world of commercialised and brand-focused sport stars who has spoken up for what he believes in, will have a much wider impact than can ever be realised now.
Rashford himself suffered through the same hardships and struggles that those he campaigns for today currently face. His upbringing in Manchester’s Wythenshawe area saw him and his family rely on food banks and soup kitchens to get by in his younger years. This compassion in his younger years has attributed to him becoming this voice for the voiceless.
Similarly, other social activists such as ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took the knee
during the American National Anthem to protest racial inequality is revered to a similar regard. Kaepernick, put his reputation, career and life on the line and used his platform to highlight the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the USA.
Whilst Rashford and Kaepernick have risked everything they’ve built to stand for what they believe in; sporting organisations must similarly realise their importance in this process and the society improving effects they can achieve.
In the last few years clubs such as QPR whose constant support and action to help those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire disaster has gone far and beyond the remit of a football club and eclipsed the UK governments measly attempts to remedy the situation.
To the other end of the spectrum, the massive response to Premier League clubs such as Burnley and Brighton simply providing free sanitary products to its fans exposes how low the current barometer is for sporting organisations to bring change.
Whilst it is not the obligation of sporting organisations to bring about societal change, their foundations as clubs for the working man must still represent those people.
Whilst Marcus Rashford might not solve food poverty, or Colin Kaepernick might not eliminate racial injustice, their courageousness will influence the future. With the next generation of kids growing up, seeing these inequalities addressed before their eyes by globally recognised stars, this will sow the seeds for future societal changes..
Much like the 20×20 campaign in Ireland, endeavouring to improve the visibility of women’s sports, their slogan “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it” also applies to the likes of Rashford’s and Kaepernick’s campaigns.
If we do not see the change, we cannot be the change.