Apology aside, Sky Sports needs to uproot racism before moving on
Published: Jun 06, 2023 10:55 PM
Illustration: Hang Dachuan/Global Times

Illustration: Hang Dachuan/Global Times

In the fast-paced world of Formula 1, where drivers battle it out on the track while fans hang on every word of the commentators, one slip of the tongue can have far-reaching consequences. Martin Brundle, an esteemed F1 pundit and commentator for Sky Sports, recently found himself at the center of a storm after using a derogatory term to refer to Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu during Spanish Grand Prix coverage.

Zhou, a rising star from China, had just secured an impressive ninth-place finish at the race, marking his second top-10 finish of the season. It was a proud moment for the young driver, who is only in his second season in F1. Unfortunately, Chinese fans' celebrations were marred by Brundle's word choice.

During a thrilling three-car chase involving Nico Hulkenberg of Germany, Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Zhou, Brundle made a remark that stunned viewers and ignited a firestorm on social media. He referred to Zhou as a "Chinaman," a term steeped in derogatory connotations which has a history of being used as a racial slur toward people of Chinese descent. 

Though the Sky Sports F1 does not broadcast the F1 live in China, there are still millions of people worldwide who are ethnic Chinese and some of them watched live through Sky Sports F1. 

Brundle's use of the derogatory term during a live broadcast quickly generated attention on Chinese and English social media. 

"If you don't understand the term 'Chinaman' and how it is historically derogatory, I suggest you need to educate yourself. And it is not the same as saying Englishman or Frenchman. Apologize, and move on," an F1 fan wrote on Twitter.

In response to the incident, a spokesperson from Sky Sports expressed regret and apologized for any offense caused in an email to the Global Times on Tuesday, nearly two days after the incident happened. They acknowledged that Brundle's choice of words was an error and emphasized the "need for care with wording" during live broadcasts. The acknowledgment reflects an understanding of the seriousness of the situation and the commitment to upholding standards of inclusive language in sports broadcasting.

British newspaper Metro also noted that the comment was "incredibly unusual" for Brundle, who is "one of the most respected F1 pundits in the world," but it is disheartening to witness such an incident occur in the F1 community, where anti-discrimination progress has been made.

It is important to recognize that mistakes can happen, especial in the world of fast-paced live broadcasting. However, what sets apart responsible broadcasters is their ability to acknowledge and rectify those mistakes. It would have been better if Sky Sports had publicly acknowledge the mistake before being reached by media, as thousands of fans expressed their disappointment and even anger over Brundle's wording immediately after he made the remark. 

This incident serves as a reminder that inclusiveness and respect should be at the forefront of all sports broadcasts. As F1 prides itself on being a global sport, celebrating diversity and embracing drivers from all over the world, commentators play a vital role in shaping the narrative. It is incumbent upon them to be mindful of the impact their words can have on a global audience. In a sport where the words of commentators hold immense influence, the responsibility to use inclusive and respectful language cannot be overstated.

It is crucial for public figures to take accountability for their actions and words. Even a seemingly unintentional slip of the tongue like this warrants a prompt and public apology. The power of words should never be underestimated and derogatory terms have no place in a professional broadcast.

While it is essential to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, it is also important to emphasize the significance of promoting inclusiveness and diversity within the sports community. Instances like this serve as reminders that continuous efforts are needed to foster an environment that respects and values individuals from all backgrounds.

By promoting inclusive and respectful dialogue, the sports industry can contribute to a more inclusive community, one that values diversity and fosters a sense of unity among all fans regardless of their background.