November 15th, 2011
05:17 PM ET

How should football tackle racism?

Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand has accused Chelsea captain John Terry of racial abuse.
Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand has accused Chelsea captain John Terry of racial abuse.

Is there racism in football? My first instinct is to say yes, because football is a reflection of society and, unfortunately, racism is present in many societies around the world.

Furthermore, taking into account the various cases where fans have abused players during matches, this is obviously still a serious issue in some parts of the globe.

What really concerns me now, however, is investigating whether there is racism on the field of play. In light of what has happened in England recently and in other nations such as Spain and Portugal, where players have allegedly abused each other, football authorities must step up and take action.

The first thing that needs to be done is to define what constitutes racist behavior on the pitch.

If one player calls another player a "black c***," like England and Chelsea captain John Terry allegedly did to Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last month, is that racist? Is he insulting Ferdinand for the color of his skin, or is he simply insulting him and adding skin color as an adjective? Equally, is it racist if a black player calls a white opponent a "white c***?"

You may think I am being silly, but it is an important distinction to make. It is not the same as if a player calls another a "n*****," which is clearly a racist insult.

Therefore, in my eyes, the priority is to decide whether calling someone black is racist. For example, Portuguese legend Eusebio was quoted this week saying that he was called black thousands of times in his football career and he never saw it as an insult. He added: "Black is the color of my skin and I am proud to be black. I may have been upset if they called me white!"

Another example of why it is important to make this distinction concerns an incident of alleged racist abuse in October's Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool. Senegal-born France international Patrice Evra accused Uruguay forward Luis Suarez of such abuse when he was called "black" various times during the contest at Anfield.

Once the definition of racism is attained, football authorities then need to decide on a penalty. And in this case, if you ask me, it needs to be a heavy one. Would a 10-match ban along with a fine of two months' salary be excessive? Not in my eyes, but that is for the pertinent people to decide.

I would like to add that the Terry case is being investigated by the London Metropolitan Police. It is not up to me to comment on whether this should be a matter for the police to deal with, but shouldn't football organizations be the ones to set the example and deal with cases of this nature?

So I would like to call upon football's governing bodies to take a stand and to take the lead on this matter. With a multitude of cameras present at most top-flight games around the world, it is only a matter of time before another case arises. When it does, FIFA or UEFA or whatever body has jurisdiction on the matter, should be ready to address the situation.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. peter mccullagh

    it is most certainly the polices job to investigate this

    November 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  2. nkruma

    Black used to be a term that negroes wore with pride. When Tommy Smith and John Carlos raised their arms on the podium at the 1968 Olympics it was in a "Black" power salute. Cassis Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and became a "Black" muslim. Pele was the "Black" Pearl. James Brown wrote a song entitled "I'm Black and I'm Proud." Far from being a dirty word "Black" had positive connotations, embodying the emancipation of the negro and replacing perjorative terms like "dark" or colored which had colonial if not racist overtones. So it's not the term "black" that causes offence but the tone in which it is said, by whom it is said, and in what situation. Unfortunately, in the case of John Terry, the cameras concealed more than they revealed, so we can't know the context in which the alleged words were uttered, but it is quite possible, as Pedro said, that he used the word "black" as an adjective not an insult or that he was mirroring something Anton Ferdinand had said to him. And let me ask you this, if Ferdinand had said of himself "I'm a black c**t so deal with it" would that have been racist? If you're undecided then you can see why Pedro's semantic argument, with football attempting to define racism by adopting a zero tolerance policy toward certain words and phrases, would not work because racism is more complex than simple vocabulary. So if you can't define what racism is how do you police it on the field of play? The answer is that you can't! You can only educate the players and fans to behave in a manner that is respectful to all races, urge players not to see racism and prejudice at every corner, and then hope for the best, because ultimately it's a societal problem that football cannot be expected to solve alone. Certainly, I'm all for punishing the guilty and appeasing the innocent, I'm just not sure how football can reliably decide which is which.

    November 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  3. georgepalmer

    Africa for the Africans,Asia for the Asians,white countries for EVERYBODY!

    Genocide is genocide,whether accomplished by bullets and mustard gas,or mass immigration and social engineering.

    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-white.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:47 am | Reply
  4. bernardwsley

    Finally... a cnn poster that swears a lot, and manage to make a troll-magnate article.

    November 16, 2011 at 11:17 am | Reply
  5. Anastacio

    People now a days are making too much of this. The insults are not about being racist but rather to play with your opponents head. Once you get in there, your opponent will lose concentration and will not be playing as good. You see this in every sport.

    People are just making too much on it.

    As for fans screaming at the players, so be it. How much money are these players being paid? They should be able to take some verbal abuse for the thousands they earn per week.

    I I earned only a fraction of what these people make I wouldn't care what people scream at me.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  6. leonie

    Some people just have to swear when they get frustrated.
    It is so unnecessary to call eachother swearwords, or racial slurs.

    Say no to racism, and say yes, to playing a beautiful and fair game, without people getting hurt.

    A soccerfield, or a hall ,where fans are waiting for a concert, could and should b some of the places , where a family can enjoy themselves, without having to see expressions of aggressivity and a lack of manners.
    It's all about respect, and compassion.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  7. Josh

    whats a C*** or a N*****?

    November 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  8. Emmanuel Asuquo

    I think the issue about racism is in the mind. If somebody calls me black, why cant I call the person brown afterall , I have never seen a white man. I have never heard any white man accusing a black man of racist attack which means that the whole isue is about being black. I am a black man and proud of my colour. People who have black skins should not feel inferior in any way because we are all God's children.
    Enough is enough. If anybody abuses you, just abuse him also instead of crying like a baby. I am tired and sick of these complaints by the black guys who are maily sportsmen and women. If they can not cope with the insults, let them come back home to Africa where they rightly belong.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  9. Pianki

    How should football tackle racism? In America the term "Racism" describes a distinct different action than what it is in other countries. Racism has evolved from its economic basis and blacks lack of to that of a social functional get a long idea. What is prejudice, bigotry, or discrimination is many cases are labeled as racism.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  10. Mark

    Lets be more precise.......since its football, lets all shout Stop Terrycism!!!!! Yep, I wish there was only one race.......HUMANRACE!!! fully blind!

    November 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  11. laraujo

    This blog raises a great point. There is clearly a distinction between calling somebody black and definite racial abuse. The problem is that sometimes – like in this case – the issue takes on a life of its own and there is a danger of losing sight of the crucial question, that is, what was John Terry's intention. While I can't claim to know what was in his mind, I doubt that somebody who has black teammates and trains and plays with them week in and week out would sink to the level of racial abuse. In that case he would not only be insulting Ferdinand but his own teammates as well. I just don't see it, not in this case anyway...

    November 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  12. mwd

    this article was poorly written. "or is he simply insulting him and adding skin color as an adjective?" that a real question. If it were a compliment, "I really like your bronzed skin" then skin color would be part of a compliment (does that really need to be explained.) If it is "black c**t" then the color of his skin is clearly an insult...... and insult based on color is called racism. I hate stupid people, including authors and racist footballers.

    open your eyes.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  13. Omar

    Ferdinand: what's with you pal??? look in the mirror...YOU ARE BLACK!!!! OK???? and guest want? so am I! and I am proud to be black. Being called a black whatever is NOT racial. there are some words that have been defined as racial slurs and those are clear to everyone. Football is NOT a sport for wussies... Ferdinand: consider ballet...

    November 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  14. mwd

    calling oneself "black" with pride is different than someone else calling someone a "black c**t". Stop showing examples of black as a positive or of one person saying it is ok to be called black and then re-using black as an insult and asking "whats the problem with that". You are manipulating, picking and choosing.... no one has ever said it is ok to call someone a "black c**t". context people.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  15. André

    In Germany we fight hard against rasism with football ads. Many of our own national team members were born abroad (Klose, Grafite, Özil, Podolski...) but we do not care about this fact anymore.

    November 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  16. John

    Racism –

    "1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race , especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races:theories of racism

    2. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior:a programme to combat racism"


    If you take Terry's comment, by definition it was not racist. It neither expressed any meaning of inferiority due to Ferdinand's race. Period.

    People need to get the politically correct stick out of their butts. Want to see racism? Go to a library, and look for films on Adolf Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. That's racism. People who belittle, torture, and degrade others *because of* their race.

    Anton Ferdinand is, in a venacular that is simplistic for communicative purposes in the English language, black. I am white. My friend Derrick is black. I have friends who are Asian, European, et al. Oops. Am I racist because I don't call Derrick ""my friend of multi-national African and other nationalities descent"?

    "Black" is not by default a demeaning term. I don't think Terry was being racist. He wasn't demeaning or expressing Ferdinand was inferior or less of a person. He was simply expressing anger.

    If Terry is racist for what he said, there are a LOT of people of various ethnicities who are racists every day while driving in traffic every day.

    Racism isn't about a word or words. It's a belief system. People need to get that through their heads.

    But does football have racism? I imagine there are people who are. There are racists everywhere.

    How does football need to deal with it? Education. Teach people how it is flawed. Show them why. Don't just get in their face, bark at them, and fine them. If they are racist, that will just grow their hatred even more.

    But lastly, you can't change the beliefs of a racist no matter what you do. That change has to come from within. No fine, suspension, or any other penalty will do matter how harsh.

    November 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  17. dINGermany

    i live in Germany and work in the arts. There is evidence of racism in the theaters. The thing is that German's pride themselves on being "honest" so they will tell you that they will not have a black guy play a role, because Germans want to see people that look like themselves on stage...

    November 16, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  18. clive

    I am a black man but Laraujo makes a good point about Terry and his black team mates. I dont think he meant it as a Racist comment. He was angry and I think he just picked the thing about Ferdinand that might hurt him the most. Like how some people curse others by telling them about their mother!! If Ferdinand had been Irish he might have called him an 'Irish c...t".

    November 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Reply
  19. Mbrowns

    MWD, best comments here. Why not just call him a c***t? When skin colour is used it forms part of the insult. Point blank. The defenders and Uncle Toms commenting are laughable. Omar, you are proud to be black, therefore you would also be proud be called a black c**t? LOL.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  20. anon

    As a "Black Man" I can say this. The only reason it is racist is because it was directed to another fellow "Black Man". Had it have been to someone that was Asian no one would care. Mind you I don't know who any of these players are but if I may point out another sport boxing. Mayweather constantly uses racial slurs at his opponents and no one complains. However when racial slurs have been used against black boxers it is automatically a national incident. I know you are probably thinking why would a Black Man be defending others?? Because while there is a lot of racism towards my brothers and sisters a lot of it is brought on by our own ignorance of being over reactive in the first place. But with racist leaders like Al Sharpton it is easy to see where it begins. That said 20 years ago and my opinions would be different than today but then education has made me see things more clearly.

    What really needs to be done is to first educate and second learn to forgive. At some point we all need to learn to respond with you know what I forgive you. To many times a racial slur is used and is responded to with other hateful language or reactions. In the eyes of the racist you only go to re affirm their ignorant beliefs to begin with. Should we sit idly by and ignore it all? No of course not, but we should learn to address it in a positive way and not in some sort of aggressive defense like is being done by all sides at this point.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  21. Victor Tanny

    "I have never heard any white man accusing a black man of racist attack which means that the whole isue is about being black." Not quite sure what you meant by this, but if you are inferring that black people are somehow not also guilty of racist attacks(both verbal and/or physical) on whites, I would have to say you don't live on this place we call earth. As for racism and bigotry in general, the only somewhat effective solution is education. Even education can't solve Homo sapiens(and indeed most other species) almost universal suspicion toward, aversion to, and persecution of anything that is different from "their" perception of what is "normal". This applies to both behavior and physical characteristics. When economic disparities and other perceived and/or actual injustices become severe enough for a particular "group", people almost inevitably start to retreat into their respective groups and become ever more strident in their denunciation and persecution of the opposing group. Can this almost universal behavior/survival tactic be resolved without every human looking exactly alike, having identical beliefs, and having identical, cloned sports teams? Impossible. Maybe if geneticists are allowed to alter the human genome to remove all of our aggression and selfishness, we can then finally become a bunch of passive, wimpy followers. We might start by not turning our kids into instant racists and bigots by telling them at an early age: "You know, those whites, blacks, orientals, etc., etc... are going to say and do this and that, so watch out", or " You know, those Muslims, Catholics, and Serbs do this and that, so you need to always be suspicious of "those" people. Saying these things to kids will always put them on irrational alert to actually interpret an innocent comment or behavior as a virulent racist/bigoted affront. Why not try to let them make their own decisions about people through their own experience? Sure, everyone wants to protect their children from everything negative in life, but with some things it's better to let them form their own conclusions from their own experiences than for us to force our own jaded experiences into their psyches at an early age and immediately bias their thinking. Good luck with that, I guess. Now stop your wimpy whining.........

    November 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  22. teddy

    I find this whole thing ridiculous, if you call an Italian, Greek or French, a so and so
    no fuss is made about it.
    Call a black man black a big hoopla is made of it, it's sad because it shows a lack of confidence and self esteem by black people.
    Can you imagine a black kid asking his/her parents what the fuss is all about and told, Ferdinad was called black by a white man, in the mind of that kid the word black will forever be associated with ( black being an insult ) what a sad world.
    John Terry is NOT a racist.
    By the way I am black, you can call me a black bastard if you want
    I have no problem with that

    November 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  23. Noris

    Context adds definition to the statement. It was intended to insult, and indicates Terry's deep racist sentiments, which may be suppressed under normal circumstances. A person's racist disposition is not something that FIFA can address, however, all stakeholders need to know that racist behaviour will not be tolerated.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Reply
  24. Babatope

    racism....hmm ....a very big deal in modern football, just disappointed with Blatters comment..i cant imagine Liverpool defending Suarez despite being charged...that's just the beginning of racism, lets have zero tolerance at club sad i might never watch Liverpool match anymore.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  25. Dante

    Soccer (football) is a great sport because it is a team sport. It is great that people from different countries can play together on the same team.

    I think that racism is more of the exception than it is the norm. I used to play a lot of soccer. Have I ever encountered a slur on the field? Yes. Did I think of fighting with my fists? Surely!

    However, the best weapon to beat someone who slurs you is to score a goal on that person. After you score the goal, ask that person who slurred you, "What did you say?"

    November 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  26. Yesitsme

    Amazingly, I would tend to side with Sepp Blatter on this one – I don't believe there is a chronic racism problem on the pitch, it's just sledging designed to get in the head of the opponent. I don't know the circumstances of what JT said to Anton Ferdinand because the camera only told half the story and Ferdinand didn't initially complain, either because he didn't hear Terry's words or because he wasn't bothered. It was only when some busybody drew attention to the video footage that it became an issue. It therefore suggests that there was nothing sinister or unusual about JT's sledging. Instead of "black" he could have said "fat" or "ugly" or "useless" for all the relevance the adjective had to his true feelings toward Anton as a man. It wasn't a premeditated racial slur, it was part of a heat of the moment exchange (and I'm convinced it was an exchange as Ferdinand must have said something) that's more indicative of the player's lack of vocabulary and imagination than it is of any deep seated racial bigotry. What the media-inspired scandal that prompted Ferdinand's delayed reaction does indicate is that "racism" is football's cry of the moment. People seem to be hyper-sensitive towards it, and, as a result, claims of racism are growing exponentially. To me that raises a red flag. Is racism more rampant or are we seeing what we expect to see? Now that's not to say that racism doesn't exist in football, and I believe that claims should be thoroughly investigated and the guilty severely punished. But what football doesn't need is people jumping on the bandwagon, being opportunistic with their claims, and interpreting every playground insult as a racially motivated slur. Sometimes things are just not that black and white.

    November 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  27. Mmm

    Put the microphones around, point them towards the field and record what is said. If set up correctly, today's microphones are strong enough pickup conversation from a distance even with all the noise around. Punish those who are clearly abusive. Fines should be exponential for subsequent offenses.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:29 am | Reply
  28. bigwilliestyles

    If a person uses the phrase 'black c***' at me, it is all insult. When a person uses the phrase 'the negro', as in: how does 'the negro' who has embraced... It is just as bad. Both are racist statements mascarading as something else; the former as an adjective, and the latter as 'intellectual' commentary. There are some Blacks (perhaps Terry's team mates) that would accept any and all levels of racist insult while skining and grinning happily, so long as they receive their payment, whatever that is. If you don't want to be called racist, don't make racist remarks.

    November 17, 2011 at 2:44 am | Reply
  29. Bill Reed

    Stop the whining. No league can force individuals to "play nice" when it comes to race. People have beliefs and are entitled to them. Those who whine about "racism" need to shut up and let their performance speak for them. Then, antagnostic comments will fade away. The world will never be a perfect place. If you don't like what someone says to you, punch them in the face or keep walking.

    November 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  30. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Though they look strong, mighty and very well paid, footballers are human, fragile and prone to weaknesses on and off the field.

    Since the payments are huge they are made to run like workers who have to keep running in colorful uniforms and deliver night and day, in rain and snow.

    They are hired, fired, sold, bought and re-sold. They lose their cool, get angry, dive without reason and may even utter words that disturb the peace, concentration, focus and joy of the rival football player leading to protests and ugly unpleasant scenes whilst playing and gracing the eternally Beautiful Game.

    Yoga and spirituality can bring about inner healing and wellness in the overall behavior of our distinguished footballers.

    The playing arena is a wonderful stage. Football's governing bodies need ambassadors who can promote and propagate solidarity, co-humanity, respect and dignity.

    Wishing our footballers all the very best in the gigantic task of remaking and reshaping of attitudes towards the rest of creation.

    November 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  31. Alan

    Lets put a challenge on Sepp´s table....have him support a non- WHITE person to lead FIFA, there are many capable people out there. Come on Sepp...are you a racist...only a racist doesnt understand this.

    Next challenge to all who are critical of his comments....AVOID ALL INTERNATIONAL GAMES UNTIL SEPP RESIGNS!!!!..FACEBOOK..COME ON, lets do something.


    November 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  32. Alan

    Oh...............His not only a racist but a sexist too...remember what he said about female football?

    November 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Reply
  33. Ifeoma

    Being called Black is no more an insult than being called white, asian or any other race. Please, this issue it's making us black feel like being black is bad or inferior and it isnt. We should all rise above this. I'm insulted by the way Evra carried on with his issue. I bet he called suarez some names too why whine about being called as though he was called crippled dumb? Don't get me wrong I'm against racism when fans shout and boo a player but in the field of play among players, it's just trash talks, getting to ur opponent to demean their confidence and gain psychological edge.It now depends how u react to it. It shouldn't be beyond the game. I gues it's what Blatter is trying to say. Infact it shows that Blatter is not a racist but the detractors who want him resigned and hurling insults on him are just that

    November 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  34. Prakash Moktan

    Soccer is is played all over the world and probably the most popular game – reachable to all class and segment of human society simply because it is affordable as everyone know 22 players kicks one leather ball – the result: it is played by races of all caste and creed – blacks, white, brown, yellows ..... And in heat of the moments & heights in any game ,players throws slurs and foul language including racist remarks
    randomly. As a professional player when you are in an entertainment business if you cannot tolerate the offensive language, you might as well not play the game or just get on with the game as probably what FIFA President was trying to say – shake hand and get on with the 90 minutes game instead of trying to dramatize and make mockery of the game ! Its high time professional player beside their physical ability, they should tone up their mental strength and get on with the game.................

    November 19, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  35. Steve Glean

    At anytime a man's colour is brought into any conversation we are making a distinction, from another man. I remember this was best exemplified by a spitting image sketch where the news reader continually referred to people by colour..two white men were today involved in an accident with an asian man and a black man, two white policemen brought them before a white judge and 11 white jurors and one black juror...rridiculous yes...the colour of a man should not matter if we are men, it is important for those who for whatever reason want to imply a difference.. a man is a man ...I learned this from my white wife when I asked her didn't she feel awkward dating a black man to which she replied..funny I thought I was dating a man

    November 21, 2011 at 7:20 am | Reply
  36. Malyk10

    The world hasn't changed much since the time of Martin Luther King Jnr or Mahatma Ghandi. In virtually every field, you'll encounter such issues whether in words or deeds. However, like someone said earlier, the change has to come from within. Any punitive measure employed will not correct this centuries old problem. In God's eyes, we are all equal. Man has always fermented trouble wherever he finds himself so it's up to him to make the much needed change and move on...

    December 7, 2011 at 10:57 am | Reply
  37. Bob

    "Therefore, in my eyes, the priority is to decide whether calling someone black is racist."

    I'm sorry, but this rediculous nonsense has degraded to a level of stupidity that I had hoped I would never see. 'Racist' used to be a term to describe... well... a racist. Now if you so much as look at someone the wrong way you are labeled. The sad thing is, the overuse of words such as 'racist' and 'bigot' (typically used to describe anyone who disagrees with left leaning causes) has cheapened them entirely and left us with no language strong enough to label those who truly do deserve to be called such names.

    December 22, 2011 at 4:08 am | Reply
  38. jermaine

    The moment he said you " black " c*** he made it into a color issue. If color was not a big deal for Terry he would have just said you c*** period. The true colors of a person comes out when they get caught off guard. I don't swear and when I get upset I still don't swear because it's no who I am. So please stop giving excuses for Terry's behavior. People should remember he was not giving a compliment. He wanted to hurt somebody and he did and if he didn't mean to he would have apologized when her realized it hurt the other person.

    December 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  39. Racism is a way of life in europe'

    Racism is too much in europe' in sports, education, jobs, clubs, buses, trains! After 10 years in europe, I think its time to head home to my country Nigeria. Its better to earn 16 thounds naira (100 dollars) a month and be good than to earn 6 thousand dollars a month and complain everyday'. its a shame' ... but thats the way it is'

    February 9, 2012 at 8:22 am | Reply
  40. mario monteiro

    Racism in soccer exists for a longtime, FIFA lives on denial and will be on denial for a longtime if black and white players don´t approach this issues seriouly. Eusebio, i agree he was a great player but he never understood that when people in Portugal called him "black", it wasn´t in good terms, they were poorly educated. The word "negrito" in south american countries have a strong negative meaning so for me the north american aproach with the issues is: zero tolerance, period.

    February 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply

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