In Sunday’s NYT books section, Bill Keller wrote glowing review of John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation. The book, Keller informed his readers, is about how Mandela used rugby, a sport that was once the very symbol of apartheid, to heal his country’s racial divisions. “There are scenes that will open your tear ducts,” Keller promises.
Astonishingly, however, Keller failed to mention that, having helped bring South Africa together, rugby is now being used to tear it apart again. The post-Mandela South African government has repeatedly touted–though never officially imposed–strict “anti-discrimination” orders on its rugby team to ensure that a politically acceptable number of black players are selected.
Last year, Jake White, the unfortunately named South African coach, was forced to step down–despite having just won the world cup–amid accusations that he was not picking enough black players. The South African Rugby Football Union admitted that his black replacement, Peter de Villiers, was not chosen purely on rugby grounds.
This is a brewing controversy in an increasingly popular international sport. Surely Carlin’s book does not fail to mention it? Surely Keller should have?