Ride London has been called out for Photoshopping a black female cyclist into one of their promotional photos, which opens up more questions about the lack of diversity in sports.
Diversity in sports needs to be better.
Just last week, a report by the Sutton Trust showed that female athletes usually need to study at university alongside training, so that they have a “Plan B”. Male athletes, on the other hand, are more likely to dedicate themselves solely to training because it’s easier for them to carve a career in sports.
The study also highlighted a social class problem, reporting a high level of privately-educated Olympians who had access to sports facilities during their time at school.
Oh and, we’re still not completely sure why there isn’t a female equivalent of the Tour de France.
Sure, we can’t ignore that some progress is being made.
The recent Women’s World Cup whirlwind proved that female players need to be taken more seriously. Cori “Coco” Gauff’s smashing performance at her first Wimbledon has inspired young women-of-colour everywhere. And one Stylist writer recently shared her positive experience of being a plus-size woman in the swimming pool in 2019.
But there’s still a long way to go.
This is why the recent news of a major cycling event company Photoshopping a black female cyclist into their promotional imagery is such a head-in-hands moment.
Ride London, which is organised by London Marathon Events, admitted to The Times that they edited the photo in order to appear more diverse. Although the female rider had indeed attended a previous event, they basically “cut and pasted” her into another shot to be used on the website.
“All images are from riders who have participated in sportives at Prudential Ride London and there was absolutely no intention to mislead,” said Hugh Brasher, the event director.
While the intention might have been good, this is a classic example of how sports companies fail at being more inclusive.
Professional photographers were clearly working at the event, so why wasn’t there a single suitable photo of a competing black female cyclist riding alongside white cyclists that could have been used? With around 100,000 people expected to take part this year alone, it raises questions about the lack of people-of-colour signing up to take part.
Last month, the Diversity in Cycling report conducted by the British Cycling organisation argued that the cycling community needs to “challenge stereotypes that cycling is the preserve of middle-aged middle-class men in Lycra”.
Jools Walker, cycling blogger and author of Back in the Frame, recently spoke to Stylist about the lack of diversity in cycling, and how it held her back from getting on her bike.
“I didn’t see people like me, a woman-of-colour, out there. Nine years ago, before I got back into cycling, not seeing anyone I identified with was one of the biggest things putting me off it,” she said.
“That feeling of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is terrifying. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because of the fear of rejection or finding out it was not a space for me.
“No one should feel like that in anything in their lives at all. There are other women like you doing it, it’s just about finding them and making those connections that do exist.”
Speaking with The Times about the Photoshopping scandal, Walker said: “All I can imagine is a group of white marketing executives looking at this image and thinking: there’s a problem.
“But instead of trying to address why people from these groups don’t see cycling as inclusive, they decide to photoshop in ethnic minority women — badly. They should be embarrassed.”
Hopefully, this humiliating blunder will serve as a wake up call.