This is something that happened last week, but People Magazine only recently got around to writing about it, so I thought I would too. One of Prince William’s big causes is, somewhat bizarrely, “mental health in sports,” and even more specifically, “mental health in football.” I say “bizarrely” because William is grossly unqualified to speak about the following: mental health, sports, coronavirus and, you know, racism. Try talking about mental health in modern sports without ever mentioning all of the racism within team sports, racism from sports fans and racism within professional commentators. It’s a huge gaping blind spot which William isn’t prepared to say anything about beyond “I’m bored with it.” William just wants to do Zoom calls where he says “mental health” a million times and cracks jokes with the bros.
Earlier this week, Prince William attended a call-in roundtable discussion with a number of elite athletes, along with Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The conversation was held as many across the U.K. are returning to work in the midst of coronavirus restrictions beginning to be lifted. Many of the athletes spoke about how their own careers had been strengthened by focusing on their mental health, and they also discussed how the sporting world can do their part to help the general population as they emerge from lockdown.
During the call, the Duke of Cambridge stressed the importance of having a culture that supports mental health present within all sports, and he also spoke about his mental health campaign Heads Up, which has been promoted alongside soccer in the U.K. throughout the season.
“Through the Heads Up campaign, the football community has come together to do its part in driving lasting change by encouraging people to open up about their mental wellbeing, at the same time as embedding a mentally healthy culture across the sport,” William said.
“I believe that there is more we can do collectively to ensure this is replicated across all of sport. And that is why I am so happy to be here with you all to discuss how we can make that a reality,” he added. “We have a unique opportunity to use the tragedy of the pandemic to bring about positive change. As the sporting world begins to return it is vital that we talk about the mental wellbeing of our sportspeople and fans.”
William’s initiative, which was also featured in a documentary, is set to culminate at the FA Cup final, slated for Aug. 1, when the showpiece game will be named the Heads Up FA Cup final. The games are set to re-start next week.
I mean… I feel like a gigantic a–hole when I do this, because mental health is important and when athletes speak about their own mental health issues and journeys, it’s always very powerful and it ends up bringing a lot of attention to the importance of mental health – think about Kevin Love speaking about his panic attack in the middle of a game, or Mardy Fish speaking about his anxiety disorder. Those are legitimately important conversations and moments that bring a lot of attention to sports and mental health. And I just feel like William is trying to co-opt that conversation and make it shiny and royal so he can take credit for “starting” it when his interest is barely a mile wide and an inch deep. Plus, his lack of engagement on racism in sport (not to mention racism in everyday life) is so notable and frustrating.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.