‘Nitty gritty’ on Sky Sports’ banned list of words due to supposed links to slavery as broadcaster orders commentators to avoid using language which may offend viewers in emails containing list of prohibited phrases
- Sky Sports will warn reporters not to use words which may offend viewers
- Staff members will be sent message containing list of prohibited phrases
- Broadcaster will hold sessions with commentators to discuss language used
- Study has found ‘deep-rooted racial stereotypes’ are prominent in commentary
Sky Sports are drawing up a list of phrases they feel may offend – and are warning commentators not to use them.
Sportsmail understands that commentators and match reporters have been sent a number of emails with phrases which are deemed out of bounds, including one which told them not to say ‘nitty-gritty’ amid concerns over links to slavery.
The messages are part of an ongoing drive by the broadcaster to ensure that staff are aware of the origins of the language that they use while on air.
Sky Sports will semd a list of prohibited phrases to commentators and reporters this week
WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE TERM ‘NITTY-GRITTY’?
Today ‘nitty-gritty’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning: ‘The fundamentals, realities or basic facts of a situation or subject. The heart of the matter.’
The OED says that the word can be traced back to at least 1940 and originated in the United States in African-American usage.
But the origin of the phrase is uncertain and disputed – and many consider its roots to be in the slave trade, so its use is banned in some institutions such as the police force.
This theory suggests that the expression refers to the debris, such as lice and grit, left in the bottom of slave ships once the slaves have been removed from the hold after a long voyage.
But there is no evidence linking the term to slavery in the first printed examples found of its use.
Phrases.org, which researches the origins of such terms, lists the earliest example of ‘nitty-gritty’ in print being from a catalogue of musical compositions from 1937, which includes a song titled ‘That Nitty-Gritty Dance’, by Arthur Harrington Gibbs.
There are no printed examples of the phrase after that until the 1950s, when its use was varied.
Some examples show ‘nitty’gritty’ used in its modern sense, but others are more obscure.
In one example, according to phrases.org, a ‘nitty-gritty gator’, as used in an article in Texas newspaper The Daily Journal in June 1956, meant a ‘lowlife hip dude’.
It has also been suggested that ‘nitty-gritty’ refers to head lice – ‘nits’ – or ground corn – ‘grits’ – but again there is no hard evidence.
Phrases.org concludes that ‘it is most likely that the rhyme was formed as a simple extension of the existing US adjective “gritty”, meaning determined or plucky.’
Sky Sports holds sessions with presenters, reporters and commentators in which the importance of the language they use to describe athletes from different backgrounds is discussed.
In the light of the recent issues raised by the killing of George Floyd in the United States and the increased focus on racism it generated, they have put on extra sessions with the Professional Footballers’ Association and Kick it Out.
The broadcaster has concentrated on language used, especially when discussing stories and issues concerning the Black Lives Matter movement.
However, the emails have not gone down well with some members of staff. One claimed that they now faced ‘a complete minefield’ while on air, adding: ‘There are phrases that most people would have absolutely no idea would cause offence and that, to be frank, I’d be amazed if people were offended by. It’s making what is already a difficult job harder and it feels unnecessary.
‘There are obvious things that should not be said and I think everyone believes that education on these issues needs to be improved, but this feels like we are tripping over ourselves.’
Earlier this week, the PFA urged commentators to address their racial bias after a study revealed differences in how they describe players with different skin tones.
Findings revealed on Tuesday, following the first study of its kind in football, showed that ‘deep-rooted racial stereotypes’ are promoted in commentary.
Players with lighter skin tone received significantly more praise for their intelligence, quality, work rate and versatility, while players with darker skin tones received at least 63 per cent of the criticism when it came to comments made about intelligence, quality and versatility.
The term ‘nitty-gritty’ is widely used and there is much debate over its origin. Some believe it originated as a term used by slave traders to refer to the detritus left after a slave ship was emptied, although this is disputed.
Last month, Dundee city council said it would review ‘slave traders’ language in council chambers, such as the phrase ‘nitty-gritty’.
The Black Lives Matter movement has encouraged broadcaster to dissect problematic phrases
SKY SPORTS’ NEW POLICY ON TACKLING RACISM
Sky Sports today announced that they are ‘committed to doing more to tackle racism, highlight racial injustice and support communities impacted by racism’.
It appeared to back its pundits and presenters, such as Patrice Evra, Jamie Redknapp and Kelly Cates, who decided not to wear Black Lives Matter badges because of concerns over the far-left political ideology of the UK arm of the movement.
A statement said: ‘Our support is for the moral cause and campaign, that Black Lives Matter, rather than for any political organisation.’
Sky also say they have committed to supporting anti-racism and improving diversity by introducing several measures.
Sky has committed to improve Black and minority ethnic representation at all levels of the company, supporting anti-racism charities, and developing new content to highlight issues of racial injustice.