England star Maro Itoje says he won’t be singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ anymore after learning the context in which the song was originally penned.
His comments come following the release of a RFU documentary in which a host of England rugby players of African origin, past and present, have given their take on the controversial English rugby anthem.
The song, which has links with slavery, was apparently first heard at Twickenham in 1987, although its roots at Twickenham appear to date back to the 1960s. However, there’s a growing section of people within and outside of rugby union who no longer want the song associated with the game.
“I think pre-dominantly most people who sing Swing Low don’t sing it with any malice,” said the England and Saracens lock. “I don’t think they sing it with any intent to harm or to cause other people ill-feeling.”
According to the RFU research on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot concluded that 74 people of people, rising to 84 per cent of those from a BAME background agreeing that it is important for England Rugby to actively educate fans on the origins of Swing Low while 69 per cent of respondents said the song shouldn’t be banned. The RFU will use the findings of the detailed research to inform action plans for four key areas of the game.
“However, that doesn’t deny that the origins of where that song came from is deeply spiritual and it does have racial undertones.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell people what they should or shouldn’t do but personally I won’t be singing the song anymore.”
“I have sung the song previously when I was naive to the original context, but given what I know about the original context, of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, I think personally, that’s not the song that I’ll be singing anymore.”
However, rugby league legend Martin Offiah says he will continue to sing the song. “I for one will be singing the song with them. I know there are players who will feel differently. You are not going to get one topic where the whole of the rugby family are of the same opinion.”
? "I for one will be singing the song with them. I know there are players who will feel differently. You are not going to get one topic where the whole of the rugby family are of the same opinion."
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 24, 2020
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