Incidents of racism still occur in football, whether perpetrated by fans or by fellow players. A notable example was the high-profile controversy involving Chelsea FC captain John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, the younger brother of Rio Ferdinand. Terry was alleged and then proven to have committed racial abuse against the younger Ferdinand. In Italy, 29-year-old Brescia striker Mario Balotelli has always suffered racial attacks from his fellow countrymen. There was one game where he got visibly angry after hearing racist chants from the crowd.
In the MLS (Major League Soccer) and American soccer, unfortunately, it is no different. During the league’s early years, American football greats like Roy Lassiter have experienced being called racial slurs. Lassiter was a well-respected star of the sport. In the amateur leagues, players haven’t been deemed safe from such unacceptable behavior and remarks. A year ago, in the United Soccer League, a Tulsa Roughnecks FC player hurled racial slurs against Energy FC defender Atiba Harris.
The United States Soccer Federation committed what would be considered a form of censorship on American soccer athletes speaking out against the unjust treatment of police forces on black people in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2020, after the George Floyd killing, the same federation’s president Cindy Parlow Cone apologized to American soccer athlete Megan Rapinoe for discouraging her national anthem protests. At least such an act signifies that sports institutions allow their athletes to speak out about what they believe is unjust and oppressive in today’s society.
THE HOPE AND THE FIGHT FOR A MORE INCLUSIVE SOCIETY
Fortunately, not all hope is lost. As the world advances, many influential individuals are now working together to look for ways to fight against institutional discrimination and marginalization.
The movement for tolerance begins today and will hopefully live on for the foreseeable future. After all, soccer is a team sport, and we can apply that to everything else off the pitch. Be a team player and aim to help those who need it most.
We can see this type of camaraderie and call to united action in the MLS itself. After the murder of George Floyd, more than 70 black MLS athletes formed the Black Players Coalition of MLS. It aims to fight the racial inequalities in the MLS, combat racism in the soccer scene throughout America, and help the black communities of the United States and Canada.
Acts like these show us that there is still hope for good to prevail over the bad and that there will always be kindhearted people, regardless of what sector in society they are in. Be it in sports or other industries, the call to unite everyone as one human race will never go down in the night.