In examples of anti-white racism, conspiracy theories are frequently employed to ‘explain’ the very ways in which the values and beliefs of ‘white society’ are assumed to be undermined or undervalued. To this extent, the resort to conspiracy has remained a prominent characteristic of white nationalist movements, most notably, the ‘alternative right’ (alt-right). Increasingly, these conspiracies have infiltrated popular and political discourses, serving as both a point of criticism and debate amongst mainstream media outlets. By critically analysing the significance of conspiracy, this paper explores the formal importance of conspiracy theories in aiding and perpetuating the dissemination of alt-right politics in sport. Paying particular attention to the development of alt-right conspiracies—from fringe online communities to popular social media spaces, such as Twitter—we examine how online criticisms of the ‘take the knee’ protest, during the 2020 European Football Championship, sought to deride the tournament for being subject to a cultural Marxist, ‘woke agenda’. Detailing the extent to which alt- and far-right discourses have become mainstreamed, we first address how the decision to take the knee before the start of England’s game became linked to criticisms of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and second, we reflect upon the modality of conspiracy as well as its role in perpetuating examples of anti-white racism through fear, paranoia, and racial hate. For this reason, our conclusions speak to the growing importance of conspiracy, both conceptually and analytically, as well as its role in encouraging the perpetuation of alt-right politics in sport.
Senior Lecturer, Academy of Sport and Physical Activity and Centre for Culture, Media, and Society, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Race/Ethnicity, Racism, Anti-White Racism, Social/New Media Analysis, Sporting Mega-Events