The politicisation of Emma Raducanu’s US Open victory was inevitable in today’s culture-war-obsessed world
For most of us Emma Raducanu’s triumph in the US Open represents an inspirational sporting achievement. For others Raducanu’s victory provides an opportunity to score political points.
Most of the commentariat are totally indifferent to sport, which is why one of its members runs an article in The Guardian with the headline ‘Emma Raducanu victory sparks debate over multiculturalism in the UK’.
A similar approach is taken by The Guardian’s American sister paper, The New York Times, whose headline declared ‘A New Sport Star Showcases the Diversity of a More Complex Britain’.
In reality what the new sport star showcased was a phenomenal tennis performance. She was there to demonstrate her impressive technique and athleticism, as well as bravery and resilience.
The speed with which advocates of multiculturalism, diversity and opponents turned a young 18-year-old sport star into a political statement was truly astounding. ‘US Open tennis Ace Emma Raducanu proves how migrants make us a winning nation’, wrote Brian Reade in The Mirror. In Read’s column, the achievement of a young tennis star is reduced to a simplistic political argument against Brexit and immigration control. He wrote that ‘if we’d had Brexit 16 years ago Emma Raducanu wouldn’t have been allowed in’. As it happens Emma and her family’s arrival from Canada has nothing to do with Brexit. But why let facts stand in the way of a Remainer’s fantasy feel-good story?
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, was one the first public figures who sought to turn Raducanu into Princess Diversity. He tweeted ‘Here in London, we embrace and celebrate our diversity’. According to this version of events, apparently in London, the celebration of her sporting triumph was trumped by the outpouring of public enthusiasm about her ethnic background.
Surprisingly, even the sport personality Tessa Sanderson placed a racial spin on Raducanu’s victory. ‘Thanks to Emma Raducanu, tennis in Britain is no longer regarded as white and middle class’, she wrote.
Demonstrating that for numerous trendy commentators your ethnic and cultural origins are destiny, the Times writer Sathnam Sanghera tweeted, ‘Half Romanian, half Chinese. Born in Canada, brought up in the UK. Immigration enriches us, and always had done’.
Half Romanian, half Chinese. Born in Canada, brought up in the UK. Immigration enriches us, and always has done. #Raducanu
— Sathnam Sanghera (@Sathnam) September 11, 2021
Get in. Emma Raducanu the immigrant from a Romanian, Chinese, Canadian family grand slams the haters. This is the Britain we love. #USOpen2021
— Adil Ray OBE (@adilray) September 11, 2021
In case you missed Sanghera’s point, the television personality Adil Ray tweeted ‘Get in. Emma Raducanu the immigrant from a Romanian, Chinese, Canadian family grand slams the haters. This is the Britain we love’.
Ray’s act of transforming a young sport star into a poster girl against hate captures the ethos of creepy opportunism.
Anti-Brexiteers appear to be so desperate for a good news story that they piled in to uphold Emma’s victory as vindication of their love of the EU. The anti-Brexit actor David Schneider used his school-boy sarcasm to tweet:
‘Bloody immigrants! Coming over here, making it from qualifying to win the US Open without dropping a set.
“Bloody immigrants! Coming over here, making it from qualifying to win the US Open without dropping a set” #EmmaRaducanu
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) September 11, 2021
As far as the economist and commentator Will Hutton was concerned, Raducanu’s victory in the US Open final has made an important contribution to seeing ‘the Brexit case collapse’. The Remain camp must be scraping the bottom of the barrel if it can draw the simplistic conclusion that a game of tennis can finish off the case for Brexit.
There is something truly unworthy in the manner with which a young woman’s brilliant contribution to tennis was hijacked by politically motivated entrepreneurs. Would they have argued that if a young white British woman whose family lived in this nation for centuries had won the US Open, it proved the case for Brexit or immigration control? The very posing of this question underlines the desperate opportunism behind the project of turning a sporting achievement into political propaganda.
It is regrettable that so many influential people are committed to the project of treating sport as yet another battlefield in the culture war. I have no doubt that Emma Raducanu will face considerable pressure to adopt the role of Lady Diversity. Yet, whatever happens in the future her singular achievement at the women’s final in the US Open will not be forgotten. Hopefully, she will remain true to herself and continue to retain the fighting spirit that made her performance on the tennis court so special.
Frank Furedi’s 100 Years of Identity Crisis: The Culture War Over Socialisation is published by Routledge later this week.