FILE PHOTO: Winter Olympics – Team GB Homecoming – Heathrow Airport, London, Britain – February 26, 2018. Bill Sweeney (CEO, BOA) during the press conference. Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
June 24, 2020
(Reuters) – Rugby Football Union (RFU) Chief Executive Bill Sweeney says he will not sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” anymore due to its links with American slavery but added that it would be difficult to ban the song.
The anthem, believed to have been written by a slave in the mid-19th century, became a mainstay with England supporters in the 1980s and the RFU said last week that it was reviewing its use following the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests.
“I used to sing it a lot in the 70s, I won’t sing it anymore,” Sweeney told the BBC. “If there was somebody next to me singing it then I wouldn’t look at them and think they were racist. I’d think they don’t feel it’s an issue.
“You need a bit of common sense and a bit of responsibility here. The way to go about it is education and awareness. It’s difficult to ban a song when you’ve got 82,000 people in a stadium and you say you’re not allowed to sing this song.”
England international Maro Itoje has said the song had a complicated background.
“I don’t think anyone at Twickenham is singing it with malicious intent,” he told The Daily Mail. “But the background of that song is complicated.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)