England’s national soccer team and Chelsea soccer team captain John Terry faces criminal charges over accusations of racially abusing a black opponent who plays for rival London team Queens Park Rangers. Terry allegedly called Anton Ferdinand a 'f****** black ****' during a Chelsea defeat earlier this season. The Crown Prosecution Service charged Terry on Wednesday, signifying the most serious attempt to quell the rampant problem of racism in European soccer.
Although the sport is beloved by people around the globe, especially in European, South American, and African countries, the European leagues have had issues with racism among players and spectators for years. During games, fans have been known to throw bananas and peanuts at black players while making monkey chants. Really, when considering that two-thirds of players are foreign-born, these problems reveal Europe’s immaturity when it comes to race relations.
It is no secret that immigration has become an increasingly controversial topic in many European nations, England included. The allegations towards Terry are just indicative of many European’s fear of seeing their homogenous countries turn into melting pots a la the United States.
Taunts and other forms of intimidation are a part of any professional sport, so what makes Terry’s remarks any different? The charges against Terry comes comes one day after Luis Suarez, a Uruguayan striker for Liverpool was banned for eight matches and fined about $62,000 for spewing racial slurs at a Manchester United player. Perhaps the EU is extra-sensitive since they have been fairly lax when dealing with complaints from players in the past. Terry may just be the scapegoat to atone for the inaction on FIFA’s part in the past, especially after FIFA President Sepp Blatter tried to downplay such racism a month ago by saying any problem between players could be resolved by a handshake. However, many players like Rio Ferdinand, a player on England’s national team and the brother of the Queens Park Ranger player whom Terry made those remarks towards, scoffed at Blatter’s statement, calling it condescending and somewhat ridiculous.
For Americans, whether it’s thinking back to the days when Jackie Robinson first integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers back in the 1940’s or the dearth of Black quarterbacks in the NFL, dealing with racism in sports is nothing new. However, sports have also served as one of the most progressive spaces for integrating people. They may be more progressive when it comes to education reform, healthcare and even tax regulations, but thanks to our colorful history, Americans have a lot more practice dealing with the consequences of this kind of racism.
Photo Credit: Ronnie Macdonald