Tennis star’s US Open victory turns into ‘race-baiting’ debate on diversity and immigration

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Emma Raducanu’s victory at the US Open on Saturday was celebrated by many in Britain, though a focus on her race and background turned the celebrations into debates on diversity.

Raducanu’s victory earned praise from some of Britain’s highest officials, including Queen Elizabeth II who called the victory over fellow teen Leylah Fernandez a “remarkable achievement.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan was in a similarly celebratory mood over the win by the 18-year-old: “Emma Radacanu’s story is London’s story,” Khan tweeted. “Born in Canada to Chinese and Romanian parents, she moved to London at two-years-old.”

Khan added that London celebrates its “diversity,” and by working hard and “getting a helping hand, you can achieve anything.”

His tweet triggered numerous critics, with the liberal mayor being accused of “race baiting” and taking attention away from Raducanu’s accomplishment to make his own political points. 

Emma Radacanu's story is London's story. Born in Canada to Chinese and Romanian parents, she moved to London at two-years-old. Here in London, we embrace and celebrate our diversity. And if you work hard, and get a helping hand, you can achieve anything. #USOpen 🇨🇦🇨🇳🇷🇴🇬🇧

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) September 11, 2021

The tweet was quickly dragged on Twitter as Khan was accused of simply using the victory to promote his pro-migrant position, using the teenage athlete as little more than a prop.

“No one cares about anything other than this fantastic day for Emma and [Britain],” activist and actor Laurence Fox tweeted in response to Khan, adding, “she’s as British as you or I.”

No one cares about anything other than this fantastic day for Emma and 🇬🇧. Not about ethnicity or background.She’s as British as you or I.Great Britain.🙏🏼 Diversity of thought and skills.And what skill! Well done Emma! 🎾

— Laurence Fox ✌🏼🇬🇧✌🏼 (@LozzaFox) September 12, 2021

Others pointed out that Khan was in more of a rush to make his point than to even make sure he spelled the young star’s name correctly.

“Whilst you’re race baiting, you could at least get the spelling of her name right,” pundit Abi Roberts tweeted

It’s Raducanu. You really should get her name right or people will think that you’re using a young, talented British girl, and her background, to fuel your tribal, divisive, point-scoring, vindictive, politics.

— Christina Jordan (@CJordanjb) September 12, 2021

If you're going to use Emma Raducanu's outstanding achievement to peddle your identitarian diversity politics, at least be respectful enough to spell her surname correctly.

— Dr Rakib Ehsan (@rakibehsan) September 12, 2021

Much of the talk around Raducanu’s victory devolved into debates about race, as many activists chose to focus on the athlete’s ethnic background in order to prop up her win and push their immigration agendas. 

As Govt continues to feed the anti-immigration narrative, they take credit for a team built on immigration reaching the Euro final & Emma Raducanu reaching the US open finalEvery hour, every day, in every sector of society, an immigrant contributes to making this country great

— nazir afzal (@nazirafzal) September 10, 2021

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,” activist and reporter Adil Ray tweeted, a message that was similarly met with swift backlash.

“The only haters out there are race-baiters like @adilray who, with crushing predictably, have turned the finest British tennis performance in living memory into a pointless rant about immigration & division,” Martin Daubney, deputy director of the Reclaim Party, tweeted in response. 

“Stop trying to cause division where there is none,” actor and activist Matthew Marsden added.

The first four words would have sufficed. The rest is drivel

— Graeme Bandeira (@GraemeBandeira) September 12, 2021

Even commentator and former leader of UKIP and Brexit Party Nigel Farage, who has a history of comments critical of immigration, called Raducanu a “global superstar” following her victory, a simple message compared to others, but one that received lashings for its political implications, as well as Farage’s own history of previous comments. 

A global megastar is born. @EmmaRaducanu winning the US Open is truly incredible. 👏

— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) September 11, 2021

This is tennis. Stop all the bloody comments about politics, race etc….. well done @EmmaRaducanu 🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾🎾

— Silly Jilly (@jill86158336) September 11, 2021

Remember saying this?

— Pikachu3408 🇩🇪🇪🇺🇷🇴🇬🇷🐝 (@Pikachu3408) September 11, 2021

After winning the US Open women’s singles final on Saturday, Raducanu has become the first British woman to hold the title in over 50 years. She is also the first British woman in 44 years to win a Grand Slam singles title. 

While others have debated her background and how relevant it is to her victory, she revealed she hasn’t paid attention to the conversations around the US Open.

“I still haven’t checked my phone. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on outside of the little world that we’re in here. We’ve just been in the quiet room, just enjoying the moment, taking it all in,” she said. “I think today we just really need to shut out from everything, just enjoy it as a team, because it was a team effort.”

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