Why Don’t #BlackSportswomenMatter In South Africa? By Cheryl Roberts

8 Jun


Very few women’s sports and sportswomen are corporate sponsored in South Africa. It’s a struggle to get sponsorship for women’s sports and sportswomen, a litany of battles to keep asking for sponsorship and being rejected. Despite women in sport being consumers, buying from corporates and companies, contributing to profits extracted from consumers, corporates mostly refuse to acknowledge and support women in sport.

Of the few women’s sports supported by corporates, there is South African netball and the national women’s cricket team and women’s hockey team. With just a few blacks in these teams, these three national teams are white-dominated and project white sportswomen success.

But where is the corporate support for national women’s sports teams of rugby and national league women’s football, national teams that are 90 percent black? Where is the corporate sponsorship of highly achieving black sportswomen: world class netballer Phumza Maweni, Paralympic champion Zanele Situ, world champion boxer Noni Tenge and pioneering black women golfers, Yolanda and Siviwe Duma, and top 8 African fencers, Aphiwe Tuku and Nomvula Mbatha?

That sportswomen struggle for corporate funding, there is no doubt. The sponsorship facts and figures are out there to be seen. Of the sponsorship that does get given out, it’s always about more white sportswomen receiving the handouts with very few black women in sport and elite sportswomen getting corporate sponsorship. Is it about the racist gaze that black sportswomen don’t sell products for corporates? Is it about black sportswomen not being ‘marketable’?

Besides class and wealth differences, where are the differences between black and white sportswomen, except in the colour of their skin? We are not wrong when we say that corporates, despite being supported by black consumer and buying power, still largely ignore sponsoring black women in sport. Why is this?

This is what we mean when we say #BlackLives matter; when I ask ‘why don’t #blacksportswomenmatter in South Africa?’ Are corporates, even when they are represented by black employees/representatives, being racist, exhibiting inferior mentalities and exhibiting racial prejudice against black sportswomen, when they ‘decide’ on whom to sponsor in sport? How do you ignore the mass participation of black women in football and rugby, yet sponsor men’s rugby and football? Look at the global feats of netballer Phumza Maweni, Paralympic champion Zanele Situ and world boxing champion Noni Tenge. And the pioneering golfers, SA’s first black pro women golfers, Siviwe and Yolanda Duma and many more black women in sport. Not one women’s Springbok player – including the women Springboks captains – has a personal corporate sponsor!

South Africa’s greatest athlete Caster Semenya clinched some corporate deals after much pressure was mounted against World Athletics for their racial profiling of black woman athlete, Caster Semenya. There was a time when Caster Semenya was on her own, ignored by corporate sponsors depite, being a world and Olympic champion, in the early 2010’s. SA’s world class wheelchair tennis player Kgothatso Montjane had to also struggle for sponsorship until I highlighted how she was SA’s first black woman to play Wimbledon and how she got there on a struggling journey.

We can see how mostly black-dominated women’s sports and sportswomen are ignored by corporate sponsors. Yes, we note some elite black sportswomen get some corporate kit sponsorship deals here and there. But we are talking about just a few. What about the world class, elite black sportswomen such as Phumza Maweni and Zanele Situ? What more must they do to attract corporate sponsorship?

There are corporates and big money-making companies watching #BlackLivesMatter protests, trying to say something about them supporting #blacklivesmatter campaigns. But how do you say this when you are responsible for not making #blacksportswomenmatter in South Africa?

For how many more years must we remain silent accepting a few handouts here and there while black women create major profits for corporates?


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