Sky Sports News’ Jessica Creighton explains why she called for an LGBT+ award on the Football Black List – and the positive response
By Jessica Creighton, Sky Sports News presenter
Last Updated: 01/07/20 1:05pm
For the last decade, the Football Black List (FBL) has recognised the achievements of people from African and Caribbean heritage in the game, while also highlighting involvement in communities and grassroots football.
Here, Sky Sports News presenter Jessica Creighton explains why she has been lobbying the FBL to recognise the LGBT+ community in their annual awards, and the outcome…
It can be a double-edged sword for those of us who belong to more than one marginalised societal group. An Asian man who uses a wheelchair might face racism as well as ableism. A black woman could have to contend with sexism in addition to racism. And what if you’re also part of the LGBT+ community?
I can relate. We’re constantly having to weigh up what parts of ourselves to reveal, and what parts to keep hidden in case it’s not safe for us to be ourselves. We have to battle racism in the LGBT+ community, and homophobia in the black community. So where do we belong? Intersectionality needs to be recognised, otherwise people’s struggles and experiences will go ignored.
Often, I’ll go to an LGBT+ event and be the only black person, or I’ll be at an event for the black community and I’m the only out LGBT+ person.
This shouldn’t be the case.
True equality doesn’t come about by focusing on the struggle of just one marginalised group. We lead interconnected lives, so true inclusivity comes from ensuring everyone – no matter which marginalised group they belong to – is seen and heard.
Equality is yet to happen in sport. For example, a recent investigation found there are just five black women on UK sports boards out of 415 positions, while in a recent YouGov survey for Gay Times, two-thirds of football fans said they weren’t comfortable challenging homophobia amongst their own supporters.
More needs to be done – more listening, but most importantly, more action. I’ve found that action isn’t always forthcoming when it concerns making organisational change, particularly when it involves intersectionality. So when I publicly called for an LGBT+ award to be included in the Football Black List, explaining why it was needed, I wasn’t sure if I would be met with incredulity.
The Football Black List has long been held in high regard in the black community. Since 2008, it has acknowledged and celebrated our achievements in football, and is backed by the Premier League, The FA, the EFL and other major organisations. The annual FBL event has got better at recognising the contributions of black women but there was no visibility for black LGBT+ people. Until now.
“We need to recognise those experiences that are different within the black community,” says FBL co-founder Leon Mann.
“We will now have an LGBT+ award at the Football Black List. Intersectionality is vital to recognise, to celebrate, to support and show that people within our black community have different experiences.”
How refreshing. Despite not being from the LGBT+ community, there is a willingness to try to understand the struggle and help support. It’s this type of empathy and leadership that has been missing, as many organisations grapple with making their workforce more diverse and inclusive.
“We’re at a point now where the talk has got to move to what are we going to do now and when?” adds Mann.
“I really hope there are some leaders watching this who begin to get it, and understand that dynamic of change. If as a leader you’re failing to make that change happen, then you need to become accountable.”
It’s a proud day for @FootieBlackList! Awards recognising Black LGBT+ and also Black disabled people is a vital step.
For clarity, we want LGBT+ and disabled people recognised in all the categories.
However, we also want greater visibility & celebration of intersectionality. https://t.co/JjrAViLIN5
— Leon Mann (@Leon_Mann) June 30, 2020
Change is often met with resistance. And when it comes to sexuality, it is still a taboo subject to many people. I wondered whether people were ready for a black LGBT+ award.
“I do understand some people are at a different part of their journey. It’s our duty and it’s what any right-thinking organisation should be doing – challenging those unacceptable views, and educating people and being part of the change,” says Mann.
True to form, the Football Black List will also be adding an award for those with a disability.
“It’s a really proud moment. Black LGBT+ people are central to our community. Black disabled people are central to our community. We bring people together to celebrate the achievements of our community and that includes every single area of our community.”
It’s heartening to know that you’ll be accepted for who you are. My request was always about more than the award itself. I hope it’s a step towards true inclusivity and giving people the space to live their lives authentically. Everyone deserves that choice no matter which community they belong to.