The issue of racism is never far away from the surface within sport, and with this week’s issue commemorating Black History Month, The Gryphon looks at the current sporting state of affairs
From Jesse Owen winning 4 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics – countering Naxi propaganda claims of ‘Aryan Racial Superiority’ – to the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute protesting against racial discrimination, racism has always been a much-discussed issue in sport.
In today’s diverse and multi-cultural world of sport, racism should be an out-of-date idea. Sport encompasses all ethnicities; what matters is ability. Indeed, in English football there has been a significant improvement since the 1980’s, when bananas were thrown on the pitch and racist jibes and discriminatory gestures from the stands were common. Nowadays, around 25% of professional players are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. With a more accepting society and campaigns by organisations such as Kick It Out, racist incidents are now few and far between.
Nonetheless, the fact that it happens at all shows that racial discrimination has not been completely removed. A prime example of this is 2011, when Chelsea’s John Terry and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez were both accused of racially abusing an opposing player. The fact that two prominent players were accused of discriminatory behaviour in the modern game shows that although progress has been made, there is still a racist undercurrent in the English game.
It must be said however that English sport is still a considerable distance in front of other parts of Europe in terms of the number of displays of racist behaviour, and the subsequent punishments for such behaviour. Only at the beginning of this month did a racist demonstration at a Bulgarian stadium shock viewers around the world. Supporters of Levski Sofia held up a banner which read ‘Say Yes to Racism’ emblazoned across it, mocking UEFA’s well known anti-racism campaign. They were fined less than £8000. If this gesture stood alone that would be bad enough, but it is by no means an isolated incident. Football in Eastern Europe has been rocked by scandal after scandal, resulting in growing concerns about about holding the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has even suggested that African players should not attend the tournament after he was racially abused playing against CSKA Moscow last year. The carefree attitude of many European officials intensifies the problem, with many incidents either going unpunished or simply being denied.
Racist comments made earlier this year by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, Donald Stirling, showed that racism in modern day sport is not just confined to football. It appears that around the world, racism is still a problem in sport. Progress has definitely been made, especially in England, but the fact that incidents of racial abuse are still occurring shows that more must be done, and quickly.