“It’s really the song of England rugby,” said Josh Rice, 25, a fan from Nottingham.
Arthur Jones, a music history professor and founder of the Spiritual Project at the University of Denver, said the situation reminded him of American sports teams who use Native American names and imagery, in that a group of people seemed to be free-associating with imagery largely disconnected from its history.
“My first reaction is absolute shock — and I actually understand it when I think about it — but that’s my first reaction,” Jones said. “I feel kind of sad. I feel like the story of American chattel slavery and this incredible cultural tradition, built up within a community of people who were victims and often seen as incapable of standing up for themselves, is such a powerful story that I want the whole world to know about it. But apparently not everyone does.”
When told about the awkwardness many Americans feel upon learning of the song’s repurposing, John M. Williams, the director of the Center for the Sociology of Sport at the University of Leicester in England, said, “I can understand that, and the only thing I could give them as a kind of strange reassurance is that I suspect the vast majority of people singing it have no idea where it came from, or even that it’s American at all, or that it has a black American heritage.”
From the jaw-dropping article, “How a Slave Spiritual Became English Rugby’s Anthem.”