Racism In Soccer: A Worldwide Issue

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We are less than a year away from the World Cup in Brazil and as the big event is fast approaching there has been a lot of talk about racism and ways to prevent it in soccer. This past week has been about the World Cup qualifying games and as I was watching the games, I kept hearing the word “racism”. Racism exists in all sports, but I found it interesting that commentators, players, clubs, and even FIFA were openly speaking about the issue.

As I was looking at soccer videos on YouTube, I found this old video which still applies to today:

This video illustrates how soccer players of color all over the world, are discriminated on the field by other players, coaches, and off the field by fans and the media. Racism in soccer has existed for a long time especially against people of color. Many “white” soccer players practice racism because athletes of color threaten them. They think that their sport is being taken over and they feel like they are losing control. This racism in soccer reminds me of the article “Fear of a Black Athlete” by Dr. Ben Carrington because white soccer players fear “Black Athletes”. Any athlete who perform exceptionally well are seen as “subhuman or superhuman” and are often times discriminated by other athletes. In fact, racial slurs and jokes are heard at soccer games, especially in Europe.

The video above, although old, is very important because we see how racism was in the past eight years and can compare it to how it is today. Although there have been efforts to stop racism, it has not stopped yet.

In fact this past week the UEFA released a video in regards to their “No to Racism” campaign. Where players of different nationalities and races came together to fight racism in soccer. This video explains what will happen if soccer players, clubs, and fans practice racism. This video proves that racism still continues to be a major problem in the sport of soccer as well as other sports.

Do you think this campaign against racism will have any impact on other sports? Do you think racism will completely go away in sports like soccer, or will it continue to grow as time goes on? Do you think the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be filled with racism by both the players on the field and by the fans off the field?

 

 

The Black Athlete: Against All Odds

Black athlete

 

If you take a good look at this picture, one may notice that there is something a bit off about this image.  Our eyes go directly to the Black swimmer to pin point that he is the one that stands out because of his skin color. Images like these show that there  is this fear of black athletes being more successful in a “white sport”. It is pretty uncommon for Blacks to be swimmers thus society tends to associate black athletes with basketball and track and field. So why is it that when we see we see images like the one above we begin to come up with excuses as to why there is only one black swimmer?

In Ben Carrington’s article “Fear of a Black Athlete:Masculinity, Politics and the Body,” he explains how the “fear of black athlete, whether praised or vilified, is a powerful reminder of the continuance and efficacy of colonial racist discourses, of white mythologies, within the West” (109). Whites fear black athletes because of racism is so embedded in our lives and we have learned that whiteness dominates society. This black swimmer might be regarded as a “subhuman” or “superhuman” because statistics show that 70% of African American children cannot swim. He has surpassed the stereotype that blacks cannot swim but according to Carrington his performances will require “implausible explanations of black physicality that ultimately serve to devalue [his] feat” (108). In other words the black swimmer’s performances will be devalued because of his race.

Why can’t society accept and recognize the achievements of black athletes? Many black athletes have made a name for themselves and the U.S. in the Olympics, but their accomplishments and gold medal will never be as good as white athletes. When will this fear of the black athlete stop?

The Black Athlete Unleashed

Charles Unchained

 

This image at its forefront is very telling about the stigma that follows the black athlete. Black male athletes are portrayed as strong, fearless, and animalistic (needing to be tamed). Charles Barkley, a former NBA star, is seen on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine breaking free from chains. Barkley, framed with his shirt off, shows off the most sexualized portion of the black male body, the torso, and has an intimidating look on his face.

This image can also be seen as ironic due to the fact that profitable items such as  magazines portray many black male athletes as valued commodities, but black people still have yet to break free from the struggle that they face in society on a daily basis.

Tiger Woods: Fear of the Black Athlete

Tiger woods fits into the common model of the sexualization and fear of black athletes. Not only can Woods be attributed to this because of his sexual acts recently seeming to overpower his career, something that cannot be said of his white colleagues, but, as seen through the photo above woods is captured as “raw” and an image to instill fear in the viewer.

This can be further seen through photographic choice of centering his unclothed torso as the main feature of the image. As Carrington states in his article “Fear of the Black Athlete”: “Currently the muscled black male torso as a commodity-sign has achieved almost iconic status within western art” (97).  This image of woods clearly downplays of his sports talents to instead focus on his physical desire. Not only are his talents downplayed in light of sexualization, but his true identity as a golfer is completely stripped away in order to promote a sense of intense masculine strength (focusing on the strength associated with lifting weights as opposed to the technicality of golf). An animalistic strength is revealed through this image with the combination of a strong image of masculinity combined with the first word of the text: “raw”. This image disassociates Woods from the sport to which he identifies with and places him instead in a category defined by Carrington as either “sub-human or super-human”(108).

Dehumanizing African Americans- Vogue Cover

In the image above, Lebron James, an African American athlete is dehumanized by showing a resemblance to the ape on the cover on the left.  The cover of Vogue magazine depicts the African American male as “uncivilized’ and even as an aggressive/threatening individual.  Meanwhile, we see that Giselle Bundchen is depicted as a vulnerable white woman who is left at the mercy of the “uncivilized man” who resembles an ape.  This Vogue cover has been very controversial due to the obvious racially insensitive stereotypes associated with African Americans.

This image reminded me of the “Discrimination Against Blacks Linked to Dehumanization, Study Finds” article, which covered an experiment which demonstrated that “many Americans still subconsciously associate Black with apes”(1).  The article covered how many African Americans are still being “described with ape-relevant language, such as “barbaric”,”beast”, “brute”, “savage”, and “wild” (2).  In the image above, all of these adjectives can be applied to the African American man being portrayed on the cover of Vogue.  The African American man is even holding a similar position to that of the ape on the left image.

After reading this article and seeing images like the one above, it is obvious that American society still views people of color as inferiors for many different reason.  Unfortunately, racism is still very prevalent in American society, and it is a shame that these very backward views are still shaping the life of many today.

DRose the Cougar : Animalism, Athleticism and the Black Male Body

 

Derrick Rose, Puma

Bleacher Report does a comparison of star NBA players’ unique physical and mental traits to those of animals.

In Fear Of A Black Athlete: Masculinity, Politics and the Body, sociologist Ben Carrington discusses the “racial signification of sport”, in which sports contests act as a “key signifier for wider questions about identity within racially demarcated…” Carrington mentions how sports media in particular have played a central role in “biologising black performance via their constant use of animalistic similes to describe black athelte.” Whereas sports journalists of times past would enhance the human capacities of the athlete, sports journalism of today are considerably more circumspect. Carrington points out that black athletes are “invariably described as being strong, powerful and quick but with unpredictable and ‘wild’ moments…”

Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report — an American digital sports media network — reinforces the metonymy between the black (male) body, athleticism and animalism in his post “Comparing Each NBA Team’s Star Player to an Animal Equivalent”. In this specific section (screenshot above), Fromal compares the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose to a cougar, highlights their comparable “rippling muscles”, “astounding leaping ability”, and incredible speed.

Rose is clearly NOT an animal. We know that. Fromal knows that. Rose himself knows that. Yet we are all culprits of perpetuating this dominant ideology — we have been conditioned to create these associations and comparisons, whether it is in our head, in an online column, or a national advertising campaign — and we aren’t necessarily conscious of the implications. Fromal (alongside the majority of the US population) has placed black bodies, and as a result black masculinity, solely in the context of athleticism and animalism.

Think of the Nike ads, Gatorade commercials and sports magazine covers that dominate much of today’s mass media. We’re exposed to these images on a daily, or at least weekly, basis. Perhaps even more frequently if we’re avid sports fans/watchers. Now recall the representation, even the presentation if you may, of black athletes in such contexts. There is a very specific image of a glistening “black male sporting body” that comes to mind, no? Shaved head dripping with sweat? Chiseled muscles? Calves like diamonds? Crouched and ready to run, or perhaps in the middle of a technical layup?

Exclusive and limited imaging of certain races, genders, and social groups across the board can influence how these groups are perceived by others and “how they are then able to perceive themselves.” The cultural representations of these social groups, and in our example, the black male body, impede their ability to “break free from, or challenge, stereotypes”.

Do such representations of blackness essentially box out any alternate identities? Does such behavior prevent black men from transgressing the historically racialized subtexts of their identity, and perhaps reinforce their history? How does a history of slavery and the struggle between power and subordination factor into images like this? What do we think of this “Subhuman to Superhuman” black male transformation that Carrington highlights? Is it possible to see beyond the binary structure of the black body as either sub-human or super-human? Can’t they just be human?