A lack of representation, careless comments and ‘racial banter’ – how this sport is facing up to its diversity issues


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By Sam Joseph, CNN

Rugby players Sadia Kabeya
Rugby players Sadia Kabeya and Ashton Hewitt have spoken out about their experiences with race in their sport (Jason Lancaster/CNN/Getty Images)

Elite sport can be a lonely and unforgiving place. Just ask Black rugby player and England international Sadia Kabeya, who says a lack of cultural and ethnic diversity in her sport took a toll on her identity.

“As a young girl just wanting to impress, I think I kind of just suppressed a lot of the feelings that I was having,” she told CNN Sport in an interview. “When I look back to those days now, I realize I was completely changing myself to try and fit in.”

A 2023 report commissioned by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) – the sport’s governing body in England – the Premiership Rugby (PRL) and Rugby Players Association (RPA) found that a “sense of belonging is not universal while the perceived need to assimilate, as well as being stereotyped, exists, particularly for players of color,” according to the RFU.

“When I first got into rugby, I was surrounded by people who looked like me and I was playing my friends from school, so I was just playing for the fun of it,” said Kabeya as she reflected on what she called rugby’s “White, middle-class origins.”

“It wasn’t until I started to take it more seriously and go outside of school when I kind of realized the diversity challenges.”

Kabeya, whose England side recently won every game in the Six Nations to achieve a grand slam, first played professionally with club side Richmond Women in southwest London.


Kabeya joined the team in 2019 and said that she was one of “four non-White players” in a Richmond “squad of around 30” women at the time.

She explained that she would change the music she listened to in fear of people at the club “turning their noses up.”

CNN has more details.

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