CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Royals Rugby Football Club, founded by and predominately comprised of queer men and allies, shared that they have always had the intention to stand with and for justice and equality for minority communities. “As a rugby club we are united and steadfast in our call for justice for the oppressed and believe fervently that black and brown lives matter,” they shared.
The team issued the following statement in response to recent social injustices and racism:
“Let us start this statement by saying we have let our players, club members, supporters, opponents, and extended rugby family down with previous actions and inactions as a club. We, as leadership, did not focus our efforts responsibly to stay true to our mission statement in all the ways we should have. This is not a request for forgiveness, but a recognition that we have work to do and an open invitation for anyone and everyone to hold us accountable. To be silent or passive is to be complicit and we cannot do either while upholding our values.
“To those past and present who have felt diminished, unrepresented, unwelcome, or unrecognized by the Charlotte Royals, we extend our sincerest apologies. But we also recognize that those words cannot be enough. Support without action is status quo. We must work to better identify ways in which we have actively or passively supported racism and other discrimination and amend or eliminate those practices as appropriate.”
Some of the ways in which the Royals plan to address this include:
• Putting an end to rugby songs after matches. “If you’ve attended our third halves, you will know it has been quite a while since we’ve sung them, but let us say unequivocally now that they will not start up again. Many have seen rugby songs as a hallmark tradition, but ALL of our actions need to be reassessed. Whether or not we personally have sung them, verses from many of these songs have promoted everything from racism to sexism, toxic masculinity/femininity, ableism, religious discrimination, sex worker discrimination, and more. That is unacceptable and must be addressed. We can find better ways to enjoy each other’s company in a musical way if needed.”
• Expiring use of the term “Zulu Run.” “For those unfamiliar, this was used to refer to a tradition to celebrate players who had scored their first try for the club. Use of this term promotes cultural appropriation. That is unacceptable and must be addressed. We will also reconsider the way that we approach these celebrations in an effort to reduce situations of peer pressure, potential hazing, and body shaming. We can find better ways to celebrate our teammates’ achievements.”
Some of the ways in which they plan to address this in the future include:
• Instances or reports of discrimination involving club members will be addressed directly and without ambiguity. Whether this involves education, mediation, or dismissal from the club, the Royals will do what is appropriate to ensure that every member of the club is heard and feels empowered to stand up for themselves or others. This will need to involve a formal plan of action put forth as part of the club’s bylaws to foster an environment where the team can grow together, while not enabling further pain.
• Ensuring that the affiliates they work with align with the team’s values. This includes food vendors, sponsors, equipment vendors and facilities. Events before had to be moved when facility ownership voiced discriminatory opinions and that will be done again when needed. “We cannot claim to support values that don’t align with how we spend money, time, or advertisement.”
• Working to ensure that the board of directors effectively represents the diversity of the club in race, age, gender, nationality and all other ways in which the club’s “differences are its strengths.” While the Royals cannot force individuals to take board positions, the team can do better to make sure all members are aware of their opportunity to lead the Royals in the right direction. “We all carry with us more influence than we might recognize. We must lift each other up to show us our own potential.”
• Making more concerted efforts within the club to create platforms for discussion on discrimination in all its forms. Simply saying that members can voice their concerns to the Player-at-Large is not enough. “We must be intentional by actively engaging our club members.”
As imperative discussions continue more steps will be taken to further create an environment welcome to all. “This is just the start,” the Royals added.
The Royals intend to continue to work together to bring about cohesion and solidarity and state they will stand with those harmed by racism, cruelty, hate and fear.