Alive & Kicking: Racism In Sport
One day last October, an argument started on a football pitch. It was between two football players, John Terry and Anton Ferdinand. Terry is a defender for Chelsea Football Club, and Ferdinand plays for Queens Park Rangers, also as a defender. Terry is white, and Ferdinand is mixed race Saint Lucian with Irish. This information is useless at face value, but interesting when we take the argument into account. Terry, during this argument, turned to Ferdinand and apparently called him a “f***ing black c***”.
This is fascinating and wrong on a number of levels. The obvious flaw I can take with it is that I know a number of mixed race people with a Caribbean background. Not all of them might immediately identify with the term ‘black’, but ‘mixed race’.
Fast-forward a few months; this week Terry was found innocent of racial abuse at a court case in London. Apparently calling someone a f***ing black c*** isn’t racist. In most allegations of racism that may occur, the person accused is withdrawn from their job as the investigation takes place. This didn’t happen with John Terry. What sort of message does this send to young people? The ruling stated that they could not be sure, beyond all reasonable doubt, of what exactly was said, even with expert lip readers and such.
What if Ferdinand had called Terry a f***ing white c***? Would the backlash be even harsher? When we look at the media, when a person of colour does something, it’s widely vilified, yet people like Terry can walk. When Anders Behring Breivik massacred dozens of young people in Norway last July, he was declared a madman by media all across the world. It was undeniably an act of terrorism against his own people. Yet, when a person of colour commits a terrorist act against a people, it’s representative of their entire community. If a Muslim bombs an area, it’s a Muslim problem and calls the people of that religion into question. This didn’t happen with Breivik. Not that I’m saying it should, I’m noting that the difference between how these actions are perceived by a majority and the difference of attitude based on race, religion and background. What Breivik did was part of a wider white supremacist wave that’s sweeping Europe and coming to streets near us today (Saturday 14th July 2012) when the EDL march in Bristol. Breivik had links to the English Defence League who are known for their rampant racism, xenophobia and general ignorance.
If the evidence had been stronger, a more concrete verdict would exist. There simply wasn’t enough evidence. It was a short clip, a painfully short clip. This article isn’t about whether or not Terry was guilty or what he actually said, but about how race is perceived, along with people’s backgrounds. During the Euro 2012, some German fans during the Germany versus Denmark game were seen shouting “Sieg heil!’, a popular Nazi chant meaning ‘hail victory!’ In addition to this, some fans were also wearing the number 88 on their shirts. The number 88 in white supremacist culture, 88 means ‘heil Hitler’. The eight comes from the fact that h is the eighth number in the alphabet. Some were also seen wearing ‘Gott mit Uns’, meaning ‘God with Us’, a statement that was worn on the belts of Wehrmacht soldiers.
UEFA fined the Croatian FA £65,000 for the monkey sounds their fans directed at Mario Balotelli, a black Italian player during Euro 2012. This is less than the £80,000 Nicklas Bendtner was fined after he lifted his shirt to show his pants, which had a sponsor's logo on them, in the same tournament. It was seen as advertising and UEFA sends out the message that advertising without their permission is worse than racism. At least it’s not as bad as in Russia where bananas have been banned from stadiums as fans would often throw them at black players.
I don’t know what Terry said because I wasn’t there, but it gave me food for thought. What I do know is that racism is widespread in football, and in some ways, it’s symbolic of societies worldwide. It still shows that systematic reiteration of the supremacy of white race is still sadly on this earth, from throwing bananas at black people to hearing sieg heil on television.
Racism’s not dead; it’s alive and kicking.
Sub-Ed Note: As with everything on theSprout, all the articles and the views expressed within them belong to author. If you disagree with any article, wish to challenge it or voice a concern, please use the comment box below or write your own article.