Maro Itoje vows never to sing England rugby anthem ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ again due to slavery origin

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Maro Itoje has announced that he will no longer partake in the England rugby anthem ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’.

Roses fans began singing the tune in 1987 however it is thought to have its origins in slavery, and is credited to 19th century African-American freedman Wallace Willis.

In 2020, following the police killing of George Floyd in the United States and subsequent rise in the Black Lives Matter movement, the RFU withdrew ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ from its marketing and merchandising but chose not to ban the song.

Itoje, 27, has previously admitted that the song made him “uncomfortable” and he will no longer sing the anthem, but will leave others to make their own minds up on whether to join him or not.

“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 amid the two-year anniversary of Floyd’s death.

“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.”

Former England player Maggie Alphonsi told Sky News in 2020 of her unease with the song.

She said: “It’s not my place to tell people to stop singing it, because you have to educate people and let them make that decision.

“The song does not sit easy with me when I hear it, because I now know the connections with it. But I also know that people singing it today are not singing it to offend.”

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