Racial Profiling In Antares Place

Recent Swimwatch posts have discussed the sentence used by Swimming New Zealand in their letter to Eyad Masoud and me. The sentence said, “My client has no interest in the programme, Mr Masoud, or Mr Wright.”

Those thirteen words are a clear breach of all that sport should mean. For a national sporting body to dismiss the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) leading humanitarian initiative; for the head office of Swimming New Zealand to send out a letter proclaiming “no interest” in the IOC’s refugee program is white men’s racism at its worst. Steve Johns, Gary Francis and Bruce Cotterill can sip their Wholefood Café lattes and discuss their cosy white man’s world. But they and their organisation count for nothing when they send out letters that dismiss as “no interest” the plight of refugees.

For Cotterill, Johns and Francis to then personalise their “no interest” contempt for the IOC refugee program by making it abundantly clear that they also have “no interest” in Eyad as a person is disgusting behaviour, verging on racial profiling. Their letter is in breach of a dozen SNZ Code of Conduct rules and is probably illegal. Certainly Cotterill, Johns and Francis have no right to single out an Arab Muslim refugee for their “no interest” attention. There is no way that treating one member of SNZ worse than every other member can be justified; especially when that member is an Arab Muslim. In today’s world especially the behaviour of Johns, Francis and Cotterill is beneath contempt. SNZ and Cotterill, Johns and Francis owe Eyad an apology in writing and published on their website news feed.

The mind that bought a gun, took it to a Dunedin rifle range for practice and then stomped into a Christchurch mosque shooting good people, some of them refugees, that mind is impossible to understand. But so are the minds that bought and approved SNZ’s verbal attack on the IOC refugee program and a New Zealand Arab Muslim refugee. Hurt does not always have to arrive out of the barrel of a semi-automatic gun. Words can be mightier than the sword. This SNZ letter is amply proof of that.

But it is not the contempt Cotterill, Francis and Johns have shown for the IOC refugee program or for Eyad that I want to address in this post. I think it is important to consider what the SNZ letter means in terms of the personal morality of those who are running SNZ. What does their letter tell us about their opinion of people less fortunate than themselves? What does it say about Cotterill, Johns and Francis as people? Are they good? Do they care? Or is “no interest” their principal feature.

Refugees are people the Olympic Committee wants to help. The stories of hardship suffered by some members of the IOC’s refugee swim team are amazing.

Take for example Yusra Mardini who paid smugglers $1,500 to cross from Turkey to Greece, after she fled war-torn Damascus. She was packed into an overloaded four-metre dinghy.

Fifteen minutes into the journey, in choppy seas, the boat’s engine died and with the occupants being tossed around helplessly by high waves, it seemed doomed to sink. Yusra who had swam internationally for Syria, jumped into the water to try and stop the boat capsizing, clinging on to try and keep the flimsy dinghy headed in the right direction.

Yusra clung on for three hours, swallowing sea water, her eyes stinging, muscles aching from the cold, and skin chafing from her life jacket. Her legs seized up and the rope cut burns into her palms. Suddenly, the engine sputtered back to life. Shivering with cold, Yusra volunteered for one last stint in the water to reduce the dinghy’s weight and they landed on a Lesbos beach.

“Being a refugee is not a choice,” said Yusra, revealing that she hates the word as it dehumanises people and evokes thoughts of borders, barbed wire, bureaucracy and humiliation.

She was taken to Berlin, where the story of her courage attracted increased attention. She resumed her swimming with her ultimate goal in mind: to compete in the Olympics. Helped by a German coach, she trained and came to the attention of the International Olympic Committee which was forming a refugee team to compete in the Rio games in 2016.

She initially balked at the thought of swimming for a refugee team because she did not want to be defined as stateless, feeling it smacked of charity. But she changed her mind, convinced it was her chance to be a role model to others who have fled war, by showing it is possible to prevail.

But SNZ and Cotterill, Johns and Francis don’t care about Yusra. They have no interest in her or the IOC refugee swimming program. They said so in a letter.

And then there is Eyad Masoud. Perhaps I could tell you his refugee story. He also comes from Syria and now lives in Auckland New Zealand. He swims for the Waterhole Swim Club and trains at the Millennium Pool on Auckland’s North Shore.

But I won’t bother telling you any more than that. There would be no point. You see Eyad has a letter from those that run SNZ. It says SNZ has “no interest” in him or his IOC refugee team. Barry Crump put it better than me – “Bastards I have met”.

We are delighted to see that the disgusting bigotry of SNZ is not reflected in other parts of New Zealand or around the world. Support for Eyad’s petition has risen to 724 signatures. Your backing is making a huge difference – thank you. Here is the link in case you know someone who might be able to help by adding their signature.



0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.