England lock Maro Itoje recognises the impact becoming the first black captain of the British and Irish Lions would have on the sport, but insists he will not be promoting himself for the job on the proposed tour of South Africa later this year.
In a wide ranging interview with Sky Sports, Itoje discussed the possibility of both teams having black captains with Siya Kolisi in charge of the World Cup winning Springboks.
Itoje, one of the front runners for the Lions role as he helps England in this Six Nations championship, said: “I feel if you campaign or clamour for the role of captain, you are almost wanting it for the wrong reasons.
“I do acknowledge how significant an event like that would be if it does happen, but I guess fate will decide. My ambition is to do whatever it is to make my team win. I take a lot of pleasure out of winning; I like winning trophies, I like being a part of successful teams, I like the feeling of getting better and everything I’m involved with I want to win
“As we continue to push the game to have a wider arm and continue to push the game to be more encompassing and attract different people from different backgrounds. I’ve had great captains and for me, it’s been a blessing to be around them because I think being around those as have made me a better leader and learn things about myself and be a better player.”
As Lions captain Itoje would become an even more important figure in the sport and he recognises the impact other athletes have made when throwing their support behind significant social issues. Itoje admires Lewis Hamilton’s support of Black Lives Matter along with the work done by footballers Marcus Rushford and Raheem Sterling.
Itoje said: “There’s a number of athletes throughout the world who have tried to lend their voice and tried to push the dial in a better direction. What he’s done in his own space to try and push and increase diversity within Formula One has been amazing.
“All three people are individuals who’ve shone a light on things that are just wrong. Marcus in terms of the school meals and underprivileged children getting the bare minimum of decent food.
“Raheem Sterling has highlighted the biases in the press and newspapers and how they report on players differently based on their race and all the things that those guys are doing is incredible. I think they should be commended for it because I think all these little conversations just push society in the right direction.”
As lockdown makes remote education difficult for many, Itoje is backing The Black Curriculum. “Throughout my schooling system the only times I learned about black history was in relation to the slave trade so as a young child growing up it makes you think that the black contribution to society is only limited to the slave trade,” said Itoje.
“And what that gives you is a very singular view of black people and I think contributes to the biases that we have as a society towards black people.
“If a Black Curriculum achieves its aims it not only benefits black people but I think it benefits everybody.
“Education is often seen as a leveller, something that can aid social mobility. The situation as a result of the coronavirus means there’s going to be a big disparity between the haves and the have-nots. With that, there are millions of children within this country that don’t have sufficient access to digital data or sufficient access to equipment.
“There’s going to be a generation of children where we’ve almost let them down and their life chances may be impacted.”
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