Sportsgirl Has Apologised After Staff Racially Profiled Warnindilyakwa Singer Emily Wurramara

An image of First Nations musician Emily Wurramara, who is posing in a red jacket and orange sunglasses against an orange background. On the image is an overlay of a Sportsgirl apology that says: "What happened to Emily in our store did not reflect what we stand for as a brand or organisation. The pace and approach of our initial response was also simply not ok." The apology is in response to accusations of racial profiling.

Fashion brand Sportsgirl has issued an apology to Warnindilyakwa woman Emily Wurramara after one of its staff members racially profiled her in a Hobart store.

Emily Wurramara spoke out about the incident on Instagram earlier this week, saying that two staff members followed her around a Sportsgirl store in Hobart in what she described as an act of racial profiling.

She said she heard a staff member urging another to “go go go” towards her, before she was asked if she’d like her items minded at the counter by staff while she browsed. She noted that no other customers were being encouraged to leave their items at the counter, while she was carrying handbags and jewellery.

“[These] companies [are] willing to put Blak faces in their campaign and use our bodies to promote their products but do not uphold that level of respect and honouring amongst whom they employ,” Wurramurra wrote, criticising the hypocrisy of diversity in marketing but not in staff training.

“This is unacceptable – and im (sic) sick of ‘dealing with it’. I’m not dumb I’m not stupid, I know when I’m being stereotyped and subjected to racism because I have lived it, seen it, traumatised and hurt because of it. Check who you hire @sportsgirl I was racially profiled.”

Two days later, Emily uploaded another post on Instagram criticising Sportsgirl for what she described as a performative and empty response to her complaint.

“Your response in my private messages mentioned you have ‘investigated’ the incident, and yet you note no findings of that ‘investigating’ and acknowledge no accountability or responsibility for the actions of your staff which I have raised,” she wrote.

“Your direct message and public response uses language that indicates that you’re only apologising for how I ‘feel’ – not for the actions of your staff which resulted in me having those feelings. Those actions that happened in your space.”

Now, four days after Emily’s original post, Sportsgirl has shared a statement to Instagram publicly apologising to Emily for their staff’s racist conduct.

“This week, Emily Wurramara, a proud Warnindilyakwa First Nations woman, artist, and role model, bravely called out an incident of racial profiling that happened at one of our Sportsgirl stores,” the brand began in a statement posted to Instagram.

“We are deeply and sincerely sorry and take responsibility for the pain, hurt, sadness and frustration this caused Emily and to any others who have experienced any form of racial discrimination.”

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The brand then listed ways in which it intends to change its work environment to reflect a more inclusive atmosphere.

“We’ve listened to Emily and we thank her for her bravery in speaking out, and we are working with an inclusion, cultural awareness, and anti-racist expert to support the implementation of the following roadmap:

1. Develop our reconciliation commitments via a Reconciliation Action Plan.
2. Cultural Awareness training to be rolled out to all Sportsgirl head office and in-store team members by 30th June 2022.
3. Inclusion training to be rolled out to all Sportsgirl head office and in-store team members by 30th December 2022.
4. Review and reform of training and in-store practices to ensure a culture of inclusion is always upheld.
5. Review and reform of recruitment, onboarding practices to ensure a culture of inclusion is always upheld.

Reconciliation and inclusion is a long-term commitment and priority of ours and we pledge to do better for First Nations people, People of Colour, and the wider community.”

While a public apology and a move to foster cultural awareness is a step in the right direction, some have questioned why it took a public incident of racism for the company to create a Reconciliation Action Plan.

“How do you operate in Australia and not already have a RAP that you have to develop one?” one commenter asked, while others claimed they’ve also faced racism in Sportsgirl stores.

At this point, hundreds of years after invasion and with a growing public consciousness around the trauma of colonisation, you’d hope brands were a little more on the ball with these issues.

Especially one that uses the faces of First Nations women in its marketing and advertising.

But hey, at least it’s a start?