Thursday, September 24, 2009

A note on racism. . .

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a rather cynical, ill-conceived rant concerning the Emmanuel Adebayor incident involving his behavior at the Mancheser City vs. Arsenal match. In this overtly condemning post, I stated that Adebayor should have been punished for both his "stamp" on Arsenal's Robin Van Persie, as well as his pitch-length celebration following his goal.

Since publishing, I've become increasingly aware of both the details of the incident, as well as gained a clearer understanding of the football climate and cultural context. While I still firmly believe that the FA was correct in punishing Emmanuel for kicking Van Persie, the punishment for his celebration seems increasingly inappropriate -- Adebayor was issued a three-game suspension.

There have been a few recent events which have encouraged my change in attitude:

1) Craig Bellamy's actions at last weekend's Manchester derby featuring Manchester City and Manchester United.

As seems obvious, at least to me, Bellamy struck a man, who was IN CUSTODY at the time, in the face. Originally, the FA announced that they would look into the matter and the Manchester Police said they would launch a probe as well. However, this morning it was announced that the Manchester Police had dropped the investigation and the FA would not pursue any punishment. The FA claimed that they decided against charging Bellamy with improper conduct because "referee Martin Atkinson told FA officials that he would not have sent off the Welsh star had he seen the incident. (EuroSport)"

2) Gary Neville's bench behavior at the Derby.
I searched for footage of the incident, but couldn't find anything. Neville ran the length of the pitch along the sideline, toward Manchester City fans, to celebrate following Michael Owen's 97' goal, and, once arriving in front of the fans, he seemingly realized what he did and returned to the bench, acting as if he had just been warming up--in the 97 minute of a match that should have been over after 95 minutes. Today, the FA announced that Neville would receive no punishment.

3) Allegations of racism surrounding Blackburn forward El-Hadji Diouf.

As told by Diouf, during his team's defeat of Mersyside, he went to retrieve an out of play ball when a ballboy innapropriately threw the ball back towards Diouf ("The ball-boy threw the ball at me like a bone to a dog"). T major allegations made are by the ballboy, who claims that Diouf exerted -- for lack of a better term and with foreshadowing symbolism in mind -- "reverse racism" on him in his verbal harassment.

Further, Diouf is now claiming that Everton fans threw bananas at him in his most recent match after the allegations of verbal abuse surrounding the ballboy incident. Everton has since denied the "fruit throwing" allegations after they were unable to find any bananas on the pitch following play and, further, are demanding an apology from Diouf.

4) Blackpool's Jason Euell subjected to racism by Stoke supporters.

Bellamy's actions were more severe than Adebayor's -- Adebayor merely incited aggression among Arsenal fans while Bellamy physically struck a Manchester United fan; Neville's celebration was as ill-conceived and virtually identical to Adebayor's -- minus the fact that Neville didn't score the goal himself.

With regards to celebrations, I've matured in a Terrell Owens; Chad Ocho Cinco; Tiger Woods fist pump riddled culture. To me, if an athlete wants to take a moment to, in moderate, celebrate following a goal/score, then he or she is most certainly entitled to, while using an ethical judgment. Entertaining, creative celebrations are just that; entertaining. Context is important, as it was in the Adebayor incident where his celebration resulted in fans throwing objects on the pitch, but if celeb
ration's are seemingly part of the football culture, then it's difficult to deduce when a celebration crosses the line. What is comical and enjoyable to one football fan is another man's temperamental catalyst.

Using the four aforementioned incidents as a contextual framework to look at the Adebayor incident, there seems a fairly prevalent juxtaposition in the significant cultural and contextual elements: race.

I'm not going to claim that either the FA or Arsenal fans in attendance of the match are inherently racist. Nor am I going to claim that the media are. But, it must be noted that the climate surrounding Adebayor was unusually hostile and the aftermath was not typical and seemed unnecessary. Just as it has been accused of playing a di
rty role in current American politics surrounding the unusually critical and insidious environment surrounding President Obama, it seems as if race is playing a role in the Adebayor situation, at least in a contextual framework.

There is an unmistakable racist element to football, particularly English football. Not only has the fan culture perpetuated this claim, but the very acts of the administrations and institutions has as well.

I recently charged the FA with implementing a policy with nativist, protectionist, racist elements to it.

While this post isn't exclusive to English football, the
re is a clear divide in media coverage and international acceptance when it comes to English football; an international press largely dominated by individuals with a particular investment in English football/culture clearly affects the sports media coverage. It does seem however, that other leagues, (ie. Italy Serie A) are combating racism on a stricter level than the FA currently is.

Wherein sports are seemingly an egalitarian exercise where individuals are forced onto an even playing field, an environment without status quo restraints, a place where the proverbial David can feat the Goliath. Yet, the institutional framework of sports carries with it a tendency for an old-boys-network of ownership, corporation, and conservative policies. As is seen in the rigorous vetting of owners in the premiere league (as is similar in American sports leagues) as well as the stereotype of the "great white hope" footballer, the underlying parliamentary, conservative ideologies and beliefs of British society are carried into the countries national pastime.

r more information read an online copy of "The Changing Face of Football: racism, identity and multiculture in the English game" (Here)

I also came ac
ross an organization dedicated to combating racism in football, Kick it Out (Here)

Stay democ
ratic . . .


re is an excerpt from an article I wrote on the American sports media and its racist tendencies:

"While our memories of Michael Jordan collapsing over gold trophies, or
him silencing a crowd and ruining dreams with final moments of greatness
25 times in his career; or a young, charismatic Tiger Woods strolling
victory laps Sundays at Augusta National or his descend into emotion
crying in his father's arms may stand as great moments in sporting
history; a black glove solute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the
1968 Olympics, a conscious objection by Muhammad Ali in Houston in the
spring of 1967, or Jackie Robinson stepping to home plate in 1947 exist
as critical moments in our lives today.
. .
"Although the racial atmosphere in sports has changed dramatically in
recent history, today the media stands as the most scrutinized
perpetrator of racial generalizations, stereotypes, and ill-commentary
in the sporting world. In the age of ESPN, ESPN 2,, and the
BlackBerry, sports fans are increasingly able to develop relationships
with their favorite stars and are, unfortunately, subjected to mounting
doses of cattiness and vernacular cruelty from sports writers and

Continue reading . . .

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