Friday, May 2, 2014

Full 90: Amid sport, a global unifier, racism continues to divide


Actions speak louder than words.

During a week soiled with racism in sports, one commissioner, Adam Silver, appeased the public with his banishment of Los Angles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, while one player’s actions, Barcelona’s Dani Alves, ignited a social media campaign to fight racism in soccer. Adam Silver’s decision to ban Sterling will serve as the template for the league’s zero-tolerance policy for racist behavior. The commissioner’s action has been met with great support by team owners, players, and fans worldwide. Conversely, a battle to erase longstanding racism in soccer is only just beginning.

The primary difference between the event concerning Sterling and the banana tossed at Dani Alves is the fact that as a franchise owner, the commissioner has certain governing powers to ensure harmony exists throughout the league. In Alves’ case, a fan of the opposing team conducted the cowardly act of racism.

For a long time now, racism has been prevalent in soccer. The majority of incidences have involved fans of clubs, yet there are several high-profiled players who have been accused of orating racist remarks or demonstrating offensive gestures during matches.


Sunday’s incident involving the Brazilian Alves is not the first time that a banana has been tossed in the direction of a player. The incident was the first documented time in which a player has responded to such demoralizing behavior in a humorous, yet powerful manner. In one quick swoop Alves picked up the banana, peeled it, and took a bite all before smashing a corner kick.

Headlines everywhere read, “Alves takes bite out of racism”.

Within hours of “the incident” fellow footballers, fans, and politicians posted pictures of themselves eating bananas preaching the message #WeAreAllMonkeys. Later it was revealed Alves’ instinct to eat the banana thrown at him was pre-planned with compatriot Neymar, both of whom discussed this matter weeks prior after having received similar racial treatment. Nonetheless the action by Alves has inspired millions worldwide to put an end to racism in soccer.
 
Neymar da Silva Santos JĂșnior

Sports are unique in that they serve as polarizing platforms for social change. Look back at Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and John Carolos who used the image of sport to transcend barriers.
 
Luis Suarez & Philipe Coutinho
Hopefully this social media movement is influential enough to inspire football-governing bodies, specifically UEFA and FIFA, to mull over the current issue of racism in soccer. Both of these organizations have long been criticized not being proactive enough in combating racism surrounding the sport. While both examples of racism this week were equally as crippling, the NBA commissioner was able to swiftly identify, analyze, and respond to the situation.

The issue is that racism triggered by fans is much more difficult to terminate. Some clubs have self-policed the issue by denying fans the ability to spectate a match, leaving the stands entirely vacant. Although this serves as a temporary solution, what is to prevent another fan from engaging in wrongful conduct during the following match? In the case of the Villarreal fan, he has been since banned for life by the club, yet has received ongoing praise from fellow Villarreal supporters.

It is tragic that within the world’s most coveted sport, racism continues to divide. Perhaps the most plausible solution to such behavior is through athletes advocating for change. If the voices of UEFA or FIFA do not ring loud enough, certainly the voices of those of whom we admire, playing the sport we love, can prove revolutionary.

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Matt Puzio is a pre-junior in Drexel’s Sport Management program. From West Windsor, NJ, Matt is an active member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Matt has assisted Drexel professor, Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, in her Title IX research which resulted in a publication and a chance to speak at the 2013 NCAA Scholarly Colloquium. Matt has completed his first Co-op with Trenton Thunder.  Follow Matt on Twitter @mattypuz.

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