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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  July 19, 2021 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the tokyo olympics get under way this week, but a growing number of athletes are testing positive for covid or being forced to self—isolate, despite the strong public opposition to the strong public opposition to the games the govenor of tokyo has told the bbc it would have been worse to cancel them. german chancellor angela merkel has visited the region of western germany head by the recent floods, saying the world must hurry in its fight against global warming, and pledges aid for rebuilding the area quickly. more heavy rain has caused further flooding in southern germany and austria. nearly all coronavirus restrictions and england have been listed since march last year, most social distancing rules are relaxed and face coverings are no longer required by law. with infections on the rise, scientists warned that england faces a difficult summer.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. whoever first said that politics and sport shouldn't mix, well, they were wasting their breath. they've always mixed. and why wouldn't they, given the huge part that sport plays in our culture? right now, england is consumed by an agonising debate about racism in football after three black players on the national team were targeted for vile abuse, but it affects other sports, too. this is lords, the headquarters of english cricket. my guest today is the former west indian fast bowler michael holding, who has become a prominent voice confronting racism. but is this a fight that sport can win?
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michael holding, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. thank you, stephen. it is pretty much exactly a year since you used your platform as a cricket commentator to speak with great eloquence and passion about the continued damage being done to society by racism. now, in the year since then, do you see any signs of progress? definitely. i see quite a few signs of progress. first of all, i don't think the voices that you're hearing most, stephen, what you're seeing on social media, is the majority. i think that's a very, very small minority. and i see people now hitting out against those people who are coming forward with those views. and when you talk about social media right now, you're talking
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about the vile abuse aimed at... the footballers... ..black footballers representing england who played, and played very well, in the euro 2020 tournament, but then faced a torrent of racist abuse. yeah, and that was sad, but, to be honest, i expected it, and i think they expected it. but, again, social media is giving these people a voice. it's amplifying what they have to say. without social media, it would not have happened. a few people would have gone into a bar or written a letter or two. it would not seem as big or as huge as it is right now. i think social media has amplified that. i do not believe that the majority of people think the way that those guys... or people, whoever it was — men, women or children... i don't think it would be children that would have written those things on social media. i walk around england, stephen, and people have heard me on sky, and i hear people hailing me from the other side of the road. "mikey, mikey, i like what i hear you saying on sky." and i've been talking about racism. if the majority of the people were racist, they'd be telling me,
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"oh shut up, go back to where you came from." that sort of a thing. i'm not getting that. i got a letter pushed through my letterbox after i appeared on tv here, a local television morning broadcast, telling me that i opened their eyes, neighbours i had never met. afterwards, they put their address on the letter, i went around and met them. just telling me that they're glad that they saw me on television and that i had opened their eyes. tell me something that's intrigued me a lot about what you said and how you chose to say it. your message was that people needed to understand history. yes. that history is vitally important to understanding where we are today. you had clearly thought about it a very great deal, and yet it took you so long to express your feelings in public. you were a famous cricketer back in the 1980s. you had a platform then, but you only really chose to use your platform a year ago. why?
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stephen, to be honest, when i was playing cricket in the �*80s and even in the �*90s, after i'd just retired, i wasn't aware of the facts that i spoke about last year. it'sjust me retiring, having more time to read. i've always been aware of racism, i experienced it as a young man, but i was never aware of the facts that i displayed because i just didn't know. it was never ever taught to me. but as time has gone on and you get more and more information, with the internet in particular, where information is so readily available, and with me being able to have more time to read books when i'm flying all over the world, and when i go back to my hotel room after doing a bit of commentary, i was able to garner all this information. and that is why i was able to say what i said last year. if someone had approached me ten years ago to ask me to say what i said last year, i wouldn't have had a clue. but doesn't it go deeper than that? doesn't it also get to perhaps even a fear that you had? when you were one of the most intimidating fast bowlers in the world, but a fear that you had that if you were too
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political, if you entered into this extremely difficult territory, you might suffer consequences for your career? definitely. but if i had opened my mouth as a player, it would bejust me being angry and just hitting out. i would not have had the facts to base my arguments on. i'm glad i didn't as a young man because, as we have seen, young black athletes or young black people who speak out against racism, they're ostracised quite easily. people just forget them. but when you come with the facts, stephen, it is difficult for people to dismiss it. so, i'm glad i waited until i had the facts and was able to base whatever i said on things that people cannot dispute. after you chose to speak out a year ago, you then wrote this book, why we kneel, how we rise. it's in many ways a difficult book to read because you go into very great detail about the history of racism — slavery in the united states,
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different forms of discrimination all across the world, and particularly in the united kingdom, where you also have a home. yes. it seems to me your message isn't just to white people, it is to black people, too. you feel that they need to know the history better. yeah, well, first of all, before i even answer that part, i didn't choose to speak out. i was given the opportunity by sky because of what sky wanted to do. if sky hadn't come to me, i would still be... sure, but you could have said, "you know what? no, i don't want to raise my head above the parapet." i was waiting for the opportunity. i was glad to get the opportunity, but i was a cricket commentator and i would not have brought it into our cricket commentary. as far as this book is concerned, what i'm trying to do, stephen, is educate everyone. blacks and people of colour need to know their history because that's the only way they can aspire to do great things, because they would have known that, before them, people like them did great things. history that was taught to me and was taught in general,
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notjust to me alone, taught to everyone, has pretty much airbrushed black achievements out of the learning. no history lesson tells you about great black people, what they've achieved or what they've accomplished. both races, blacks and whites, need to understand that there is no superior and inferior race. and if you teach the real history, that everybody can see that there have been accomplishments all over the world by all different sorts of people, there will be no—one going around thinking they're inferior or thinking that they're superior. and that is what i'm trying to do, reveal the true history. is it true, as i read somewhere, that even members of your own family found this book quite hard to read? yeah. my sisters. my elder sister is 80, my other sister is 78, so they know about that. they would have known about my mother, which i didn't know until much, much later on. so, they would not have wanted to be facing and reading about that history again.
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cos you talk about the way in which people, both black and white, have been brainwashed in a racist system for centuries... for centuries. ..and you relate that very personally to how you were raised injamaica. you saw that your mother's family resented, and in some cases rejected, yourfather, the man your mother chose to marry, because he had a very dark skin. yes. and they, in their own way, were very racist about that. and you've written very frankly about the difficulties that has presented to you, making sense of that. yeah. and what came home to me much later in life again, stephen, was remembering, as a kid, my mother waking me up in new york, upstairs, looking down into the neighbour's back yard and seeing how white and black kids were playing together, and calling me, "mikey, mikey, come and have a look here." and saying to me, "we have a chance." that was in her brain throughout.
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i am a kid, i wouldn't even have known exactly what she was talking about. but i remember, years later, what she said. and i can then imagine what would have been going through her head for years upon years upon years. what you've written about and the feelings you've expressed and the chord you've struck goes much deeper and wider than cricket. but i want to talk about your sport, cricket, and your experience. sure. do you think it has progressed? fundamentally changed from the way it was and the way racism worked in cricket in the �*70s and �*80s? well, i don't know... i don't know if you could say progressed, because i don't think cricket basically has changed a lot. i'm a little bit worried about the image that cricket has here in england, not necessarily around the world. i think perhaps cricket is a little bit peculiar because people look upon cricket, and people keep on telling me this, "don't expect too much from cricket." when you see a team taking the knee only when they play against the west indies team... when the england team did that, that shook me to the core.
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i messaged my boss at sky and i said, "this game, this sport, that has made me what i am..." not that i couldn't have been something else if i didn't play cricket, but it definitely made me what i am. "..is letting me down personally." and i take it very personal. because when the england team can say, officially, stephen, notjust by rumour, officially put out a press release that they only took the knee in respect of their visitors, what that tells me, if their visitors was a white team, they would not have done it. so, why can't cricket as a sport and as an organisation, the people that run cricket, take it upon themselves and say, "this is something that we believe in. we believe black lives matter." forget the political side and political organisation. "we believe in three words — black lives matter." everyone takes a knee in respect of that. that's a gesture that is known and respected throughout the world to support black lives matter. and then they can't do it...?
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yeah, well, that's fascinating, cos the english cricket team decided to stop taking the knee, i think, in september 2020. you... and the australians took the same decision, i think. yes. and you criticised both, and you said their reasoning was "flimsy and lame". and the response from one black player in the english team, jofra archer, was that, "michael, you don't have a right to judge us. you don't know what we, behind the scenes, are doing to foster, you know, new cricket development for disadvantaged black kids in poorer parts of the country. you don't know what efforts me and my team—mates are making." well, tell me, stephen. tell me. don't say i do not know, tell me what you are doing. and what you're doing behind the scenes, bring it in front. let us, everyone, see. don't tell me what you're
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doing behind the scenes. show me what you are doing. and taking a knee does not prevent you from doing whatever else you say that you are doing. that is not one or the other. it is both. you can take a knee and do whatever else you want to be doing. don't tell me you're doing things behind the scenes. when you... and i'm fascinated that they used jofra archer to put that out. because he is the black fast bowler in that team. yes, yes. yep. when you heard the british home secretary saying that she felt taking the knee was, to use her phrase, "nothing but gesture politics..." "gesture politics." ..how did you feel about that? well, stephen, i'll tell you, i don't have a lot of respect for a lot of politicians, so itjust goes over my head. i am not one to take too much of what they say to heart. i'm sorry that they'd have that sort of response and they have that sort of thinking, because they are the policy—makers and they are very important people in any society. but, to be honest, i cannot be shocked by anything that they say. what do you make of the young sportspeople who speak out very clear and very loud right now against what they see as persistent racism in society and in sport, and also use their platform to deliver social messages?
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i'm thinking of marcus rashford... yeah. ..the england footballer. i'm thinking of naomi osaka, the haitian—japanese tennis player, whom, actually, you spoke to in your book. and she is determined to use her platform, interestingly, in ways that you, as we've discussed, never did as a young professional athlete. do you admire them? i admire them greatly. and as i said in the book, i could not have done what naomi osaka is doing now. but i am totally convinced that the pressures that she's feeling now is because she has been so vocal, because obviously she looks at social media, she gets all this feedback. i am absolutely sure it's affecting her. i'm hoping that she can get over it and get back to playing herfantastic tennis.
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but any sportsperson — anybody, stephen, whether they are a sportsperson or not — that you have a platform, that you have a means of talking about things, whatever the injustices, i think you should. and i think the climate is right now. years ago, we saw what happened to people who spoke out. i think the climate is right now, the atmosphere's good right now for people to speak out and not be punished and not be ostracised. your message appears to be that, rather than as a sportsman focusing on what's happening in the sports arena, it is much more useful to think bigger picture and to go much deeper and to focus more than anything else on education. educating the society... now... people... sorry, go on. people keep on telling me, "oh, what should cricket do? what should football do?" you do whatever you think you need to do, cricketers or footballers or whatever sport you play in. because if society isn't fixed, stephen, nothing will be fixed. the people who play sport, the people who administer sport, the people who watch sport, they come from the society. so, if the society is fixed,
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if they are all educated to understand that we are all equal human beings, it doesn't matter what happens in the sport. and that chapter, again, with makhaya ntini, with south africa, and they are talking about having a quota system, i do not agree with it. i do not think you should try to change things by laws and regulations. start from the ground level. but, michael, this is really important, what you wrote about makhaya ntini, because he was, i think, the first very successful black cricketer in post—apartheid south africa. yes. he got in his team on merit. definitely. but you and he discuss the south african decision to be proactive, to try to engineer more black representation in the cricket team, to have, in essence, a quota... quota system, yes. ..of black players at the top of the game. it's been tried elsewhere, too, in the national football league in america, for example, they do interventions to try to encourage... black coaches. ..more black coaches
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at the very top of the game. why aren't those interventions, in your view, useful? cos it seems to me, if you believe in symbolism, as you do with taking the knee, the greatest symbol of all is to see black athletes at the top of the game and in managerial positions, too. absolutely. but i do not think it should be falsely done. i think it's something that should be happening naturally. when you do it that way, stephen, in my opinion, you're putting a plaster on a sore instead of fixing whatever is causing the sore. i want to see people coming through the entire system so that no—one can say, "oh, he is there because of the rooney rule," as they have in nfl, or, "he's there because of the quota system." that doesn't help anyone. that just causes friction. as makhaya ntini said, he was never invited to a senior meeting in that team because all the white cricketers figure he's — sorry — he's only there because they put him there, not because he
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deserves to be there. even with his 300 wickets. that doesn't help anything. and sometimes, stephen, you find people being elevated into positions that they cannot handle, they cannot manage those positions. i want to talk to you a little bit about your memories of your playing career, because you were part of one of the greatest test teams of all—time, that west indies team of the mid—1970s. you came to england in 1976 on tour, and there was real tension around that tour, particularly because the captain of england, who actually grew up in south africa, tony greig, said that he wanted to make you, as a team, the west indies team, grovel. now, that was an explosive word. did you feel an undercurrent of racism? i personally did, and i know a lot of the teams certainly did as well.
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tony greig being south african, because that's the way we looked at him — he was a south african playing for england because south africa was not allowed to play. and with the apartheid regime in full force, for him to say something like that and to use that particular word, stephen, it upset a great deal of us. until i met tony greig, i hated him. when world series cricket started in 1977, he was the one going around recruiting people. i had left cricket. i was at university. and when clive lloyd told me that tony greig was coming on this world series thing, i said, "tony greig?" i didn't want to see tony greig. when i got to meet the man, i recognised that tony greig was not racist. tony greig was brought up in a society that made him think certain things without him actually knowing that what he was thinking was wrong. i met tony greig. i became very good friends with tony greig. i became good friends with his family. and tony greig was certainly not the person that i thought of in my mind. and again, stephen,
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that is education. without meeting tony greig, i would not have been educated enough about the man. i only had a thought, south african using the word grovel, meaning that he's almost like he's going to keep a black man down. that was just a thought in my head. i got educated by meeting him. that's what education is all about. that is a very interesting way of looking at it, because it makes me feel that perhaps, when we see the way in which black athletes are targeted today with racist abuse, particularly online, you're suggesting that you actually feel some of those people being abusive, being utterly offensive and vile can be reached. of course. people tell me, "oh, michael, leopards don't change their spots." no, i do not believe that. again, we go back to how you were educated and how you were taught. if i am growing up in a household where my father beats my mother every day, and that is what i see, i'm going to believe that's just the way life is. i visit someone else's household
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and i don't see that happening, i think, "maybe that is the way it should be." if that's all you see, stephen, that is what you're going to believe. so, i believe that a lot of people behave the way they behave because of their education or lack of education. if they are re—educated and taught the real history of mankind, a lot of those people will not behave the way they behave. just on the question of social media, because a lot of the abuse these days is delivered digitally via social media platforms, again, your message seems to be that...that professional athletes, particularly black athletes, if they want to stay sane, if they want to avoid some of the horrible stuff that's out there, they should just get off social media. but, to me, that sounds like a sort of counsel of despair. that's not solving anything, is it, just telling black athletes that they shouldn't listen
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to what is out there? you know why i go down that road, stephen? because i know the people that have the power to control social media are not doing theirjob. again, i'm targeting the politicians, they are the ones who set policy. if someone is operating in your space, you control this country, someone is operating in your space, you should be able to dictate to that company how they run their company and what they allow and what they do not allow. you describe yourself as fundamentally and instinctively a quiet and reticent man who doesn't like to make a loud noise, doesn't like to sort of be in the limelight, and yet you have found yourself as a result of what... by accident! so, i'm just wondering now whether you feel you will continue to be prominent with this message of yours, to use your voice, or do you partly wish to go back to the quiet life you had before?
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well, i spoke to someone else on another news service this morning, and it's a lady who also works on cricket. and she's asked me a similar question, and i told her i am dying for the 4th of august, when i can go back into the commentary box and just do cricket... go back to doing cricket.doing my dayjob. i don't want to back away from this because i don't want to see itjust die, but i don't see myself as a person to take this forward. i'm hoping that the book and the arguments and the conversations that are taking place, that the people who have the power to put policy in place and the people who have the power to make changes will actually do it, so i can put my slippers on, get my pipe and relax. and a final thought, the young men in the england football team, who have over the last few days suffered from this torrent of abuse, racist abuse, they're of an age, in their early 20s when this is not
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easy to handle. what is your message to them given your sporting career, which, you know, saw you get fame at a similar age to them and has seen you since, reflect very deeply on what it meant to be a successful black sportsman? what i would say to them is it is getting better. these guys seem pretty strong, from some of the statements that i see them put out and some of the posts that they do on social media. i don't actually see it on social media, but people send it to me. they seem to be very strong guys. they seem to have great character, good strength. so, i'm absolutely sure that they will deal with it, but what i'll say to them again is it's getting better. people just believe that things are not going to get better, it has never gotten any better. i keep on telling them, look where we are coming from. it may not seem as if there's progress because it's happening to you and it's hurting you, but you have to have a memory and think about where it's coming from. so, there has been progress. and as i've said, i think
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the atmosphere is getting better. michael holding, it's been a great pleasure talking to you. thanks for being on hardtalk. thank you very much, stephen. hello again. sunday was the hottest day of the year so far in both england and wales. cardiff saw a maximum temperature of 30.2 degrees celsius — the new highest temperature of the year for wales. but it was a bit hotter at london's heathrow airport, at 31.6, and that's the highest temperature we've seen in both england and the uk as a whole in 2021 so far. now, if you're heading outside over the next few hours, chances are you'll come across clear skies. the exception — northern scotland, where we could see an odd spot of rain for the western isles
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and the highlands, but otherwise it's dry. the other thing i'm sure you'll notice is just how warm a start to the day it's going to be. now, looking at the week ahead, high pressure's going to stay dominating the weather picture, and that means lots more of this hot and sunny weather, like it or not. now, there will be one or two isolated thundery showers building through the latter part of the afternoon, and evening time, and after hot weather by day, it will stay very warm overnight as well. monday morning, then, sunny, warm start to the day. the exception — northern scotland, where we'll see some patchy cloud, but even here there will be some sunny spells. one or two thunderstorms p°pping up during the afternoon, not many of these. you'll be able to see the clouds from a mile away. but if you're unlucky, you could see a downpour. the highest temperatures — england and wales, high 20s to low 30s. and looking at the jet stream pattern, well, this explains why our weather's not going to change. we've got this blocked pattern. the uk's underneath this ridge, and that is what's causing us the fine weather. this kind of pattern isn't going to change very much day—to—day. and that means tuesday, we'll see more of that fine,
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sunny, very warm if not hot weather. but again, there could be one or two isolated storms popping up as we go through the afternoon. temperatures again high 20s to the low 30s, the heat wave continues. but it's starting to get a bit hotter again in northern ireland and also into parts of scotland. and that warming trend across these northern areas will continue into the middle part of the week again. so, plenty of sunshine around, one or two afternoon storms just about possible. most of you, though, will have another dry day on wednesday. and those temperatures, high 20s to low 30s, cardiff this time seeing some of the hotter weather. 26 in belfast, and 27 there in glasgow. as i say, this weather pattern's not going to change very quickly, but eventually low pressure will likely move in to bring some thundery rain. but there's a lot of uncertainty when exactly those cooler conditions will arrive.
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this is bbc news, with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. nightclubs celebrate reopening as almost all coronavirus restrictions in england are lifted. the floods are receding but the questions remain — why did so much devastation and death hit parts of western europe — and is climate change to blame. a major media investigation reports human rights activists, journalists and lawyers all being targeted by authoritarian governments using spyware. as thousands of athletes and staff pour into tokyo for the start of the olympics, more test positive for covid.

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