You have to be a bit careful when discussing racism in general, let alone in sport. It is a sensitive subject that can vilify you in an instant.
It is a plague upon the world that we live in that even after centuries of oppression, freedom and cohabiting within society, there are people who foster and even propagate prejudice.
This could have been a terrible week in world sport for racism. Firstly, there was the incident where a banana was thrown from the crowd during a FC Barcelona soccer game at Brazilian defender Dani Alves. A horrible and sadly all too frequent occurrence of racism in a nation that still has noticeable issues with it.
Then there was Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers NBA franchise, whose taped remarks of outrageous racism beggar belief in so many ways that it wouldn’t even be created in fiction.
But this terrible week has done something no other week has done. Sterling felt the full wrath of the governing scripture of the NBA. As soon as these recordings were verified to be that of Sterling, a lifetime ban of the NBA was imposed on him, including attendance at any games, a $2.5million fine and pressure to sell the franchise.
Commissioner Adam Silver defiantly and immediately took this action on the 80-year-old billionaire, saying his remarks were: “contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league.”
The decision was unilaterally supported by all players, regardless of ethnic and cultural background, with their voices and opinions championed by the social media accounts they have.
While a big decision stateside allowed this social media support for the league and its principles, a smaller decision on the other side of the Atlantic ocean exploded with support from the same channels.
That decision was taken by Dani Alves. As the banana was thrown, he picked it up and ate it. A symbol of oppression, this fruit and its derogatory meaning in one bite, pun not intended, made everything it signified null and void. The prejudice and enforcement that the chants associated to the banana had suddenly became completely unimportant.
The act of defiance against this racism just by eating the banana has now become a bigger symbol than its previous prejudicial meaning. This prompted many soccer players from all over Europe to rush to their phones to post, tweet and instagram pictures of themselves eating a banana.
Regardless once again of culture or ethnicity, the sports world united by taking on board this simple act by Dani Alves and turning it into a symbol of support against racism.
Alves is, as are many footballers, heavily critical of Spain’s efforts to curb its racist element. It is a problem that affects a lot of Europe including parts of Italy and Eastern Europe. But it is one that is being tackled.
The officials of UEFA and FIFA could learn a lot from the decisive attitude taken by the NBA. There was no bargaining, no money issues, and no hang up of any kind. To them, this was wrong and must be punished to the fullest extent that they could. Something that soccer’s governing bodies sadly have not yet achieved.
In a week that could have been terrible for sport, it did what it does best. It rose against the small obnoxiously vocal minority in their narrow minded prejudice and spoke loudly and in volumes of what was right, just and constructive in the battle against racism.
Here’s hoping, until this archaic mentality has been eradicated from society, that there are many more victorious weeks like this one.