Kick It Out: Racism and Abuse in the Premier League

Recent sagas in the Premier League and in world soccer have brought increased attention to racism in the sport. The disturbing part in all of this is that it has included players along with fans. Players are all encouraged to Kick It Out and support the cause of eliminating racism in football. However, there continue to be players who don’t seem to understand what it is that this charity is all about. I would include in this that there are those in the governing bodies that also don’t quite grasp what “Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football” means.

Over this past weekend many players chose not to wear the Kick It Out t-shirt after Jason Roberts said that he would not be wearing his during warm-ups. Other players included Rio Ferdinand, his brother Anton, Djibril Cisse, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Nedum Onuoha, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar, Sylvain Distin, Joleon Lescott, Kenwyne Jones, and the entire teams of Swansea City and Wigan Athletic.

Following this weekend there has been steadily increasing news and debate surrounding the decisions of these players. I think that this debate that has been sparked has been a long time in coming. Jason Roberts’ outspoken decision to refuse wearing the shirt has brought more awareness to this cancer than if everybody had gone on with the weekend wearing the shirts and pretending they were all doing the right thing.

One of the biggest new fads in America is wearing pink to support breast cancer awareness. It has become such a clichéd thing now that people just see pink everywhere and it begins to lose its fully intended meaning. People are only superficially thinking about it and not really thinking they will do or learn anything different about it. Wearing the Kick It Out t-shirts and having the boarding around stadiums is becoming similar, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the Kick It Out campaign is a start to bringing awareness, but it is just that; a start. More needs to be done and especially so at the higher echelons of the soccer world. Not just in the FA, the Premier League and the PFA, but even further along with UEFA and FIFA.

Look at the incidents of the past week with Serbian fans racially abusing the England team then turning around and claiming that nothing happened. I think the only way for them to learn is to ban the country from tournaments. In a way, the precedent for this sort of thing has been set with England’s ban from European club cup competition in the late 80’s. It is something that has occurred repeatedly among some countries and fines have not been a deterrent. Recently Lazio was fined for racist chants against Tottenham in the Europa Cup. I think the £32,500 is absolutely laughable and will not teach anybody anything, except perhaps for the fans who will notice that racist chanting leads to nothing being done except a miniscule fine against their club.

Even look at the most recent circumstance with John Terry. I agree with those that say he got off too lightly. I felt like the bar had been set with the Suarez case, but then to have John Terry get away with a more lenient punishment is unacceptable. I suppose the one thing to take away is that he will forever have the stigma of being reprimanded for using racist language.

A ban of at least 10 games, unpaid, plus a fine of at least 3 weeks wages might make people think again about this. If it is a fan doing the abuse, the only way to go is a permanent ban and whatever criminal charges might be involved.

The other part of this incident that bothers me is the amount of time it took for anything to happen.

The abuse of fans towards players (and even players towards players) is something that needs to be cracked down on. I would include with this the general vile abuse of fans towards players of opposing teams. It is one thing to support a club and have a bit of banter with fans and players, but some of the vehement, vile, filthy language they use is unacceptable.

There is absolutely no place for racist abuse or chants, period. On the football pitch, in the stands, on the streets, or any place. It is my hope that the most recent events of players standing up and putting themselves and their views in the spotlight like this will finally give this issue the appropriate attention it needs. I hope that this will pave the way for real change and real steps made by all of the governing bodies. Unfortunately, only time will tell.

What do you think of the player’s decisions? What more needs to be done?

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Show Racism the Red Card