3 reasons why racism still persists in sports
Different Forms of racial discriminations in sports
The world continues to witness deeply unpleasant acts during sporting events, including during football matches. They have included online rants and insulting images, slurs and abuses in foul languages, offensive chants, Nazi salutes, petitions against hiring certain players, and even systematic denial of opportunities to play or to join sporting teams based on colour or nationality.
These disgraceful and appalling acts of racism, bigotry and bias abound in our 21st century world booming with advancement in technology.
Many cases of racial discrimination in sports abound and rising
In 2018, 52 cases of racial discrimination in sports in the United States alone were recorded by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Globally, they noted 137 racist acts which numbers increased to 93 and 216 acts, respectively.
Nearly 40 percent of women in the sports industry face discrimination based on their gender. Eighty-four percent of American athletes have witnessed or experienced homophobia or transphobia in sports. Fifty-three percent of all reports made to anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out involved racism, an 11% increase from 42% the previous year. That was a sixth successive annual rise.
Have the anti-racism efforts of sports governing bodies, clubs, and organizers yielded the expected results?
It’s about a dozen years now since The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) launched a comprehensive set of recommendations to governments across Europe on how to fight racism and racial discrimination in the field of sport. Zero tolerance policies on racial discrimination and racism have been adopted by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
The English Premier League has done well too with its ‘No Room for Racism’ Project in collaboration with the clubs, sporting agencies, and the police to tackle racism on and off-the-pitch, promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion across all areas of football. They have also created and encouraged the ‘Challenge it, report it and change it’ Campaign requiring fan’s confidential text services of reporting witnessed racist or other discriminatory behaviour at a match or around a stadium. But, the big question is: Have these yielded the expected positive impact?
Common Goal, a diverse coalition of leaders from the U.S. football industry and teams from across three different professional leagues; Oakland Roots SC of United Soccer League (USL) Championship; Chicago Fire FC of Major League Soccer (MLS), Angel City FC – The National Women Soccer League (NWSL) as well as the U.S National Team supporter group, the American Outlaws created anti-Racist Project with wide-ranging objectives aimed at tackling systemic racism in both football and the society.
Given the reasonable age of fight against racism and discrimination in sports by international and regional policy-makers, sports governing bodies, and organizers across the globe, the online abuse of the English trio – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka for missing their penalty kicks in the EURO 2020 finals against Italy, proves that imminent end to racism in sports is still a blur in a far distance.
Even LeBron James, one of today’s most successful basketball players, was not abused racially but also had his home vandalized with racial slurs
‘People of colour’ in sports experience harassment and discrimination from teammates, opponents, team staff, and spectators. Hearing racial slurs called out at them, whether in the locker room or from the stands, is unfortunately not uncommon.
Why the world still grapples to end racism in sports
1. There are no serious drastic terminating measures in place yet
While the ‘Challenge it, report it and change it’ Campaign requires football fans to always include in their confidential text their seat location and as much detail of the incident as possible, including its location, to guide the appropriate response and Common Goal’s Anti-racism Outreach were fantastic, more drastic punitive actions against racists are needed. Racists need to be pushed to the wall to force them to give up inhuman behaviour.
Anti-racism awareness campaigns haven’t been large, robust, and all-inclusive enough to achieve the expected results.
2. Racial education is still poor
States, in cooperation with intergovernmental organizations and international and regional sports federations, must intensify the fight against racism and discrimination in sport by, among other things, educating and training the youth of the world through sport practiced without racism and discrimination of any kind and in good spirit, which requires human understanding, tolerance, fair play, and solidarity. Rather than fighting today to fight another day, states should fight the evil menace once and for all.
3. Lack of equal opportunity and access to sporting events
There has not been an equal opportunity in access to sport for all races – black and white, with a special emphasis on promoting access to the sport of children from different backgrounds. States’ responsibility to take measures in line with national legislation and their international obligations to give equal chance to eliminate all signs of discrimination and racism against any race hasn’t produced the desired results.
Tired of the continual lack of action that follows the repeated condemnation of racism and social injustice, the Common-Goal Anti-Racist Project was born and it was at the time when there are no Black majority owners of MLS Clubs, there are zero Black coaches in the NWSL.
There should be more drastic action to English Premier League (EPL) ‘Challenge it, report it and change it’ Project like rewards for reporters of racial abuses and prosecution of racists.
There has even been a lack of racial representation at many different levels within the industry. It’s not enough for white people to just continue to say they support ‘people of colour’.
Actions speak better than words. There is a dire need to rid all its elements from the game by implementing real solutions that fully promote equality and inclusion, impacting both on and off-the-field.
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