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  • Writer's pictureLeo Kirjonen

Sports is politics

The demand for respecting the indivisable human rights has nothing to do with snowflakes or getting butthurt.

Roller derby’s journey to the actual sports section began from counter culture. Even when I started skating back in 2010, the sales pitch was all about derby being The Sports for people who didn’t really get comfortable around any sports: nerds, rainbow people, people questioning the system - it was for everybody.

Defending human rights along with promoting inclusivity and equality have maintained as important themes around derby all the way to the present day.

For humanity against discrimination


mongst traditional sports, there are still absurd discussions about the minorities excistance going around, and the humiliating torment of the sprinter Castor Semenya seems neverending. Meanwhile, WFTDA (Womens’ Flat Track Roller Derby Association) strives for more advanced tomorrow: The tournaments held by it ask all the skaters as well as volunteers to mark also their preferred pronoun he, she or they in the application form.

As an organization, WFTDA welcomes all non-male-identifying individuals as the members of the leagues under it, regardless of their gender assigned in birth. MRDA (Mens’ Roller Derby Association) takes a step even further and has decided not to limit the gender of the member of the leagues under it in any way.

The latest project by WFTDA, ART, focuses in dismantling the system built on the foundation of white privilege and amplifying the voices of its marginalized members.

Individual derby leagues have taken a strong stand for the rights of different sexual and gender minorities. For years, their travelling teams have worn Refugees Welcome and BLM symbols in their warm up uniforms, amongst others. For example, Kallio Rolling Rainbow has cooperated with Amnesty in their campaign against women facing violence. Many internationally accomplished roller derby skaters take active stance in public discussion regarding equality and inclusivity matters.

Striving for better world for everybody

Nazis are not on the good side of derby folks.

It would be naive and even untrue to say roller derby is a happy valley where everyone gets encountered the way they wish to be encountered, and where nobody is ever discriminated against. The world is not complete, not even in the roller derby bubble: Derby remains to be symptomaticly white, ableistic, and extremely middle-class sports. Many derby leagues have reported bullying cases and direct racism. Even transphobia has occurred. These have been faced by WFTDA fairly quickly by making public alignments and clear statements for indivisable human rights.

To me, this is the biggest difference to the traditional sports: as a sports, roller derby strives to encounter the problems openly, to admit its faults, and to make corrections on a solid foundation.

That’s more than a lot of other sports can claim.

Even though from time to time, things get a bit rough on track, off track we’re all on each others’ team.

Kata Salaspuro


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