Most Read


Athletic Director Banned For Saying Black Athletes Are Fast Due To Running From 'Burglaries'

Bracknell Athletics Club chair and coach Julian Starkey blamed his 'mental health' before he was banned from serving on any UK Athletics governing bodies.

Julian Starkey
Julian Starkey/Facebook

Some comments simply can't be taken back, especially when they're shared in a public space.

Julian Starkey—chair and coach of Bracknell Athletics Club of Bracknell, England—is the most recent example of this. He made a terribly racist comment then attempted to blame it on his mental health.

Mental health advocacy organizations have pushed back against celebrities and other public figures who blame their bigoted comments on mental illness. While mental illness or addiction can lower inhibitions, it cannot make someone racist or otherwise bigoted.

In November 2022, Starkey was asked during an interview why he felt various ethnicities gravitated toward certain sports.

Instead of speaking about cultural traditions or favorite sports associated with specific countries or communities, Starkey said:

"Usually when athletes start to be more specific in events, most Black athletes tend to edge towards sprinting and hurdling… the Blacks are all good at running because they have to get away from their burglaries."

The comment was instantly rebuked and a cause for concern for England Athletics and the UK Athletics Board.

When the incident was relayed during a hearing, Starkey did not deny making the statement. He pointed out there was a "gap" between the first sentence and the second sentence.

Starkey also gestured to his mental health as a possible cause, stating he was experiencing "mental health challenges" at the time of making the statement.

While the Board was empathetic to any possible mental health issues Starkey was facing, they could not dismiss the severity of his remarks.

It was then suggested, instead of being fired, Starkey would be banned from participating as a coach for the next three years, and his membership is additionally suspended for the next six months.

The Board said of their decision:

"Holding a position in the governance structures of the national bodies [is] a higher position and people in the sport should rightly look up to the people in those positions."
"A two-year ban was too lenient when considering the severity of the misconduct."
"He had behaved in a manner which England Athletics considered disgraceful."
"The comment made was a serious act of misconduct and was totally unacceptable. Even taking into account the Claimant’s mental health, the comment was shocking."

The Board made the decision official on Twitter at the beginning of May.

They wrote:

"England Athletics operates a zero-tolerance approach towards discrimination and is committed to ensuring the sport of athletics provides an inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment for everyone."
"Anyone wishing to report any incidents of discrimination is urged to do so through the appropriate channels."

Twitter was left side-eying Starkey's excuse citing mental health.

While his mental health may have been a concern, most argued it was a less-than-plausible explanation for his statement.