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Athletes Stand United Against Racism

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The other day I saw a Youtube video of a soccer player doing something for which he has my utmost respect and admiration.  AC Milan’s star player Kevin-Prince Boateng led players off the field in protest over racist verbal abuse being strewn at them during a friendly match against a lower-tiered Italian team, effectively ending the game.  His actions resulted in a large show of support from fellow players, the owner of AC Milan and even some of the fans in attendance.While Boateng’s actions may have met with widespread popular reaction league officials do not share that sentiment.

According to FIFA president Sepp Blatter walking off isn’t the solution, likening it to running away in the face of adversity. Officials within FIFA say that they have a zero tolerance policy towards racism of any kind during their matches, but clearly their efforts have been lacking. Under threat of penalty or suspensions, players must to take no action, leaving it to the referees or officials to handle.  As of now, any penalties enforced upon clubs whose players or fans were involved in the offenses have been minimal if that; effectively a slap on the wrist.  Had this happened during competitive play, Boateng would have been suspended according to UEFA regulations.

The European body has already suspended two black players from England for their angry reaction to the crowd following a whole game of racial abuse at their hands.  Following this, Serb players and officials assaulted the two black players, only some of whom were given longer suspensions than them.  The only punishment suffered by the federation was a fine of $105,000.  In the face of this antagonistic racist treatment, and its obvious potential to erupt into violence at a moment’s notice; soccer officials must take a more proactive approach.

Boateng and AC Milan Fighting Against Racism
Boateng and AC Milan Fighting Against Racism

Despite what FIFA officials may believe about Boateng’s actions, Its offers the best possibly solution.  When fans want to abuse the players with racism, they lose the privilege of watching them play.   Rather than being concerned with their athletes being treated like animals, it’s the positive reception of Boatengs defiant actions, and its potential to spread of most concern to the league.  If they can’t find a way to regulate their matches more, not only their reputation, but their multi-billion dollar franchise could be in peril.

This strikes me as being eerily similar to what Black athletes breaking the color barrier in sports had to go through in the United States when Jim Crow was the law of the land. But that was in the relative infancy of our society’s transition to integrate.  It shouldn’t be shocking, or offensive, or new to these fans to see black athletes on the field as they sit in the stands…

I think that Boateng made the right call, the only call he could make.  Becoming an advocate not just for himself but for all those in his sport who have suffered the same indignities.  It is my hope that it continues to spread through the league as it looks like it may.

But I’m interested to hear from you.  Whats your take?  Do you agree with his decision? Or do you think that he should have shouldered the insults silently and continued to play?

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