UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he doesn’t believe that England’s unofficial rugby anthem,’Swing low, Sweet Chariot’, should be banned from the terraces, following news that the RFU are to review it’s place in the game. The song, which has links with slavery, was apparently first heard at Twickenham in 1987.
Written in the mid-19th century by Wallace Willis, who was a black American slave, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ is now under review at the RFU after a spokesperson admitted the England rugby organisation needed to grow awareness about the song’s origins.
Johnson, who played rugby in school and regularly attends matches at Twickenham, believes that the focus should be on celebrating achievement, and not looking to ban songs or pull down statues.
“My only thought about this whole issue is, frankly, what people need to do, I think, is focus less on the symbols of discrimination or whatever, all these issues that people are now raising, to do with statues and songs and so on,” he said in an interview with Sky News during a school visit on Friday.
“I can see why they’re very emotive, I understand that. But what I want to focus on is the substance of the issue,” the prime minister went on. “I want to make sure that this is a society where people can advance on their merits, achieve fantastic things and don’t face prejudice or discrimination.”
“Before we start complaining about Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, I’d like to know what the rest of the words are,” he said. “You go ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me home’, and then it all dies out. How does it go on? That’s my question.
“I certainly don’t think there should be any sort of prohibition on singing that song. My curiosity is why don’t people seem to know the rest of it – I’d love to hear the rest of it.”
PM asked about Swing Low, Sweet Chariot after England rugby bosses say they’re reviewing use of the song due to its links to slaveryADVERTISEMENT
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) June 19, 2020
Race has become a topic in English rugby in recent weeks following the protests that broke out in the United States following the death of George Floyd during a police arrest in Minneapolis. Prop Ellis Genge revealed that non-white England players and coach Eddie Jones were subjected to racial abuse during the 2018 tour to South Africa.
Former England hooker and media pundit Brian Moore has weighed in heavily on the heated Swing Low, Sweet Chariot debate, claiming that “it’s crap as a national song” because it has no relevance to the English and should no longer be sung at matches.
Moore, whose 64-cap England career stretched from 1987 to 1995, outlined his thoughts about Swing Low, Sweet Chariot on Twitter, addressing what he believes to be the apocryphal story about the song.
It is commonly believed that that the use of the song at Twickenham relates to Chris Oti, a black ex-England player who scored a Five Nations try hat-trick in 1988, or Martin Offiah’s appearance at the Middlesex Sevens in 1987, as a play on his nickname ‘Chariots Offiah’.
Moore concluded that his preference would be for the RFU to ban the song. “It can go for me; I hate it,” he said.
Offiah also commented on the debate when speaking to BBC 5 Live, saying: “I champion the RFU reviewing it, I wouldn’t support the banning of such a song. When you do try to ban things like that it just makes the song more divisive.”
“If this review leads to the RFU putting a positive spin on this song, engaging with ethnic communities, looking at the rooms where decisions are made in the RFU and addressing those issues, that’s what we actually want.”
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