By Michael McCann
Ade Adepitan believes the Sports People’s Think Tank can be an important vehicle to amplify a unified voice across sports.
Speaking after the recent SPTT Athlete Activism evening at Arbuthnot Latham Private Bankers, Adepitan said he believes that the campaign for fairness in sport is currently too often fought individually.
The former British wheelchair basketball player was part of a panel, also including sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, and host Katherine Merry, that led the evening’s discussion.
Adepitan is now calling on more people, not just from football and athletics – but all sports, to make their voices heard by backing the SPTT.
“It is good to see the SPTT mobilising across an ever-increasing number of sports because athletics and football are big sports, but there are so many others.
“Minority sports also have problems, if not more, because they are less represented. They probably feel that if someone stands up and speaks, that their voice is not big enough to make a noise.
“But if a Linford Christie or Katherine Merry start talking about these problems, people will stand up and listen, so we need to come together across sports.”
The 42 year-old suggests that events, like the Athlete Activism evening, are key in helping sportspeople change perceptions of athletes, and gain self-understanding regarding their own opinions importance.
“Currently in the UK I think we are too disparate, both athletes and people working in athletics – they speak individually.
“People in football also speak individually. If you have a problem against racism or sexism it always seems to be just one person speaking out. If we come together – we are stronger.
“People only view us as these people who exist only to run really fast, score goals or throw a ball in the net.
“Actually we all have opinions and our opinions can make a difference and I don’t think we realise how important our opinions are.
“We – as athletes – need to be taught, from a young age, that there is a wider picture to what we are doing.”
Adepitan explains that while he can understand why some do not speak out, he feels this has to change moving forward.
“I understand that there are athletes who are scared to talk because they are in a position where they may feel they will lose funding. Or they may be a high-profile athlete worried about the commercial consequences of speaking out. But we have to be brave. I have said many times before that Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther-King had much bigger things to lose.
“I’m not saying we are those types of people but they could have lost their lives – yet they were prepared to speak. We need to get out there and speak.”