As we reflect on a 2020 season, which at one point never looked like it was going to start again, it’s fair to say we were treated to some of the best racing we’ve seen in recent years. It really seemed that the compacted season added another dimension to the racing.
Each day, those of us lucky enough to have the GCN race pass were spoilt for choice on which race to watch, when. Broadcasters did their best to keep up with the cycling content and presenters worked over time.
It was clear to see watching the coverage and looking at the presenters that cycling’s problem with diversity doesn’t stop at the peloton. Every single British broadcaster who televised cycling this year had white presenters. There was not one person of colour.
If you look at journalists reporting on cycling, you would be hard pushed to find anyone of colour. Pusher of pedals recently put out a tweet asking for cycling journalists of colour to come forward for an article. Despite over 3,000 people seeing the tweet, no one did. I felt like a very, very small fish in a very, very large ocean.
Speaking to Dan Lloyd of Global Cycling Network, it’s clearly been an issue which has been a focus of internal discussion. “When we first started at GCN, we never knew where it would go, if anywhere. We weren’t big enough to make an impact, we were just learning what we wanted to do. Now, we’re big enough where we realise that we can make a change and we do have the power to make changes.” Said Dan.
The Black Lives matter movement gained momentum in the early part of 2020, when George Floyd was killed by a police officer, who had his knee on Floyd’s throat for over seven minutes. The attempted arrest came about after a store worker believed Floyd was trying to purchase a packet of cigarettes with a counterfeit twenty dollar note.
What followed was waves of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, companies looked at themselves and tried to figure out what they were doing, how they could improve and how they could show their support. “I always knew I wasn’t racist, or even sexist, the best person would always get the job, colour of skin or gender never played a role it it.” Daniel continues
“Although I knew this, I did inwardly reflect – what have I done, or could I do to address the imbalance? I didn’t want to appear to be jumping on a bandwagon, at GCN while we have black employees and one of the companies Managing Directors is black, we didn’t have a leg to stand on though, we don’t have a presenter who is not white.”
As a company it must be difficult, you want to be seen to be doing the right things but equally you need to be able to back that up with actual evidence, while weighing up the fact that these changes do not happen over night – it is a process which takes time.
Cycling suffers further, though. There are very few black riders, even less who have stayed around the sport to present after riding, Russel Williams used to commentate alongside David Duffield on Eurosport but that was many moons ago, with Williams now living in Adelaide and not being the household name which many broadcasters go for, it seems unlikely that we would see him back in the commentary box any time soon.
“Our philosophy at GCN has always been, on the presenting side of things, to employ former pro’s. People who have been there and raced in the professional peloton, they might not have been the best riders but at least they have that experience.” Lloyd continues.
“Last year, we offered a job to Red Walters, a hugely talented individual and bike rider. However, Red wanted to continue with his ambitions of becoming a professional cyclist, which is perfectly understandable. We are aware that GCN is a reflection of the demographic, we have regular meetings to try and figure out how we can address this but how do you pick from a talent pool which isn’t there?”
Therein lies the problem. How do you pick from a talent pool which doesn’t exist? No one wants to see someone in a position just because of the colour of their skin but the best possible person for the job, however, at some stage there needs to be a concerted effort to encourage, empower and engage people of colour in to presenting and journalistic roles in cycling.
Unless there is a role model or action taken soon enough then change will not happen for a very long time.