Racism in Sports
During my time as a Nike employee in London, I had the opportunity to meet a wide range of athletes such as, Michael Jordan, Carlos Tevez, Adriano, and Luol Deng.
Living in a city where soccer is like a religion, everybody goes to at least one Arsenal match.
Four years ago, I had the opportunity to attend one of these matches. My party and I had good seats and were enjoying the game until a white man stood up and shouted, “Come on, you black bastard, how you going to miss the goal.” To my not so great surprise, his party encouraged his sentiment and the racial remarks worsened.
Even though this incident happened years back, I remember it like it was yesterday, especially with the recent slew of racial incidents within the world of soccer.
According to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) website, the Bulgarian Football Union was fined €40,000 by UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary Body, after home supporters chanted racial slurs during the Euro 2012 qualifier against England back in September.
When a sport matters to so many people, it is very important that people conduct themselves in a positive and respectful manner - whether fan, player, or coach. Of course racism exists outside of sports, but sport itself unites people from all over the world, it is even more imperative to lead by example.
UEFA also announced that Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and their network partner in Poland, Never Again, will have specially trained stewards at the UEFA Euro 2012 games in co-host country Poland. It’s good to see that UEFA is taking responsibility and are acknowledging the racial problems that exist in the soccer world, rather than hushing it and pretending the problem doesn’t exist.
Recently, the FIFA President Sepp Blatter said in an interview with CNN’s Pedro Pinto that, “there is no racism” on the pitch, and suggested that if such an incident occurred, players should shake hands after the game.
When it comes to coaches, managers, owners, and even FIFA executives, the majority of sports are white man dominated.
For Blatter to make such remarks, it feels as if the treatment of racism in sports, especially soccer, is taking two steps forward and five back.
Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but to deny that racial issues exist in the world’s most popular sport is almost like a slap in the face for any soccer fan. Especially after the FA charged Luis Suarez, after allegedly racially abusing Patrice Evra, and John Terry.
Anton Ferdinand also had a racial incident in November.
These types of race-related stories usually blow up in press and media outlets. Consider that time Rush Limbaugh, who was then an ESPN sports commentator, made inflammatory remarks concerning media coverage of quarterback Donovan McNabb back in 2003.
The incident gave rise to racial debates, as the media viewed the incident differently.
I don’t think there is any one way to eliminate racism in sports, as it will probably be around for many more years to come. The fact that it’s not being disguised or ignored is a great start. Campaigns, fines, and suspensions shouldn’t be the final answer, but they will help guide the issue in the right direction.
At the end of the day, fans want to watch sports for the excitement, not for the unnecessary drama.