During the difficult period that is currently being experienced in the UK due to COVID-19, there is an understandable level of panic, fear, confusion and anxiety amongst the general population.
Unfortunately, these factors are also fuelling harmful stereotypes. Football is a sport for everyone regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity, and Kent FA therefore believes it has a responsibility to help remove the stigmas and dispel the harmful stereotypes that some minority communities in Kent are potentially facing right now:
Why is COVID-19 causing stigma and unnecessary stereotyping?
According to the World Health Organisation, this can be attributed to three main factors around COVID-19:
1) It is a disease that’s new and for which there are still many unknowns
2) We are often afraid of the unknown
3) It is easy to associate that fear with ‘others’
What impact does such stigma and stereotyping have?
- Stigmas and stereotyping can adversely impact social cohesion and create isolation. At times such as these, it is important that Kent football acts as one and is united in its efforts to follow government advice and combat the virus.
- Such adverse impacts can potentially increase the spread of the virus and not reduce it.
- Can create more severe health problems and increased difficulty in controlling this pandemic.
- Can lead to individuals trying to hide the display of symptoms.
- Act as a barrier to individuals seeking medical advice.
What can Kent football do to help remove stigma and unnecessary stereotyping associated with COVID-19?
- Carefully consider the language used when discussing COVID-19, whether that be on social media, through the communications channels you use and within your local community. Further information on the use of appropriate language can be found in the Dos and Don’ts section below.
- Ensure that you deal in facts. Stigma can be heightened by insufficient knowledge and rumour spreading and cause tension and unnecessary difficulties for those from minority communities.
- Correct misconceptions. It is essential to do this at the same time as acknowledging and being sympathetic to someone’s feelings and resultant behaviour even if the underlying assumption made is false.
- Challenge myths. This can not only help remove stigma and stereotyping but also save lives by ensuring wrong courses of action are not taken as a result of myths.
- Show your support. Many of those on the front-line fighting this pandemic as part of our national health service are from minority communities and there are many initiatives that you can get behind at home to say thank you to those in your community that are caring for others.
COVID-19 Language Dos and Don’ts
- Talk about COVID-19
- Talk about those who have or may have COVID-19, are being treated for COVID-19 or have unfortunately died from COVID-19.
- Speak with accuracy around the risk of COVID-19, using the scientific and health advice issued to the public.
- Positively talk about the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures, as for most individuals this is a disease that they can overcome.
- Promote and place emphasis on adopting the protective measures put in place to help prevent acquiring COVID-19.
- Use dehumanising language that can create the feeling that those with the disease have done something wrong, so avoid using terminology like individuals ‘transmitting’ the disease or ‘infecting others’.
- Dwell on negative messages, this can worry the most vulnerable and most marginalised and it is important to keep them safe.
- Avoid use of terminology such as ‘plague’ and ‘apocalypse’, as language like this can generate fear.
- Repeat or share unconfirmed rumours.
- Attach and define locations or ethnicity with the disease, such as ‘Chinese virus’, ‘Asian virus’ or ‘Wuhan virus’. – Did you know that the name COVID-19 was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatisation and reduce stereotyping? ‘Co’ stands for Corona, ‘vi’ for virus, ‘d’ for disease and ‘19’ for the year of emergence.
Please remember, stigma in relation to health is the negative association between an individual or group who share particular characteristics and a specific disease.
In outbreaks like the current one, this may lead to people being labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against, or be treated differently because of a perceived link with the disease.
Such treatment can negatively affect those with the disease, as well as family and communities around them, whilst also those people who don’t have the disease but share other characteristics with this group may also be stigmatised and stereotyped.