'BAME' term offends those it attempts to describe, sporting survey finds

  • Sporting Equals survey finds widespread discontent with term
  • CEO Arun Kang: ‘Racism cannot have one-size-fits-all approach’
Sporting Equals chief executive Arun Kang suggests the use of ‘Ethnically Diverse Communities’ and ‘Diverse Ethnic Communities’ where appropriate.
Sporting Equals chief executive Arun Kang suggests the use of ‘ethnically diverse communities’ and ‘diverse ethnic communities’ where appropriate. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

The term BAME can be insulting and should be retired from use, a survey of UK sporting organisations has found.

BAME, which stands for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic, has become a default phrase to describe any non-white person or group. But the term “places recognition on some communities whilst ignoring others entirely” and does not allow for “ethnic and cultural complexities”, according to Sporting Equals, which commissioned the study.

Sporting Equals advocates greater ethnic diversity within sport and counts over 200 grassroots groups, representing 150,000 people, among its members. Its survey found widespread discontent with the use of BAME and, when other options were presented, a preference for the phrase “ethnically diverse communities” when speaking broadly, and specific, relevant language when describing an individual community or person.

The findings come just days after the chair of the Football Association, Greg Clarke, was forced to resign over his use of the term “coloured people” during a parliamentary committee meeting.

Arun Kang, the chief executive of Sporting Equals, said that Clarke’s departure showed the importance and timeliness of agreed, inclusive language. “Recent events have highlighted how damning incorrect language use can be,” he said.

“More communities [have become] frustrated with the limited terminology in play when describing those who are impacted by racial discrimination. Gone are the days where we can use umbrella terminology to hide under-representation and a lack of effort to engage with varied ethnic communities. Racism cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We do understand there is a need for a term purely for admin and bureaucracy purposes to refer to diverse ethnic groups impacted on a wider level by racism and discrimination. What we need from the sector at every level is to join us in removing the use of BAME and other terminology and introducing specific approaches and the use of ‘ethnically diverse communities and ‘diverse ethnic communities’ where appropriate.”

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The Sporting Equals survey found its members felt BAME blended ethnicity, geography and nationality in ways that made it difficult to convey the individual experience of racism. It is also, respondents felt, a phrase that could be used to suggest greater inclusion, without genuinely opening up opportunities to all communities.

Finally, respondents said that the phrase had come to be used in “such a casual and lackadaisical way” that many felt offended when it was used about them.