England’s Maro Itoje has revealed that he will no longer sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ because of the song’s origins in American slavery.
The anthem has been performed by fans at England matches since 1987 but in 2020 it was the subject of a review by the Rugby Football Union in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
While choosing not to ban a song that has been credited to 19th century freedman Wallace Willis, the RFU produced a video explaining its historical context and withdrew its use from marketing and merchandising.
Itoje has previously said that Swing Low made him feel “uncomfortable”, adding that its background is “complicated”, but the England second-row of Nigerian heritage has now chosen to take an individual stand.
“I’m not going to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do but, personally, I won’t sing this song again,” Itoje told L’Equipe.
“I sang it before when I was naive and didn’t know its origins but, now knowing the context in the creation of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, it’s not an anthem that I’m going to repeat any more.”