In the age of multiculturalism in which we live, many might expect that racism would be a thing of the past. However, another in a series of racially charged episodes emerged in the English football world, when Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez refused to shake the hand of Manchester United’s French defender Patrice Evra. This comes after the last time Manchester United and Liverpool met when the white Uruguayan, Suarez, had been accused of racially insulting the black Frenchman, Evra. England and Chelsea captain John Terry was recently sacked after he was charged with racial abuse of the Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand. These two events occurred after FIFA, the world governing body of football, introduced various anti-racism programs such as the “Say No to Racism” campaign at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The furor surrounding Terry’s termination has had significant repercussions in English football as a whole. The national coach, Fabio Capello, stepped down because he disagreed with the FA’s decision to sack Terry. Principia sophomore Abi Carper believes this was “definitely” the right decision, as Terry is the “symbol for the national team.” However, Terry has denied allegations handed down from the British Crown Prosecution related to his use of racist language. Terry insists he has “never aimed a racist remark at anyone and count[s] people from all races and creeds among [his] closest friends.”
Principia freshman Kendall Shoemake believes that because Terry routinely interacts with multiracial teams, it is “silly” to think that he is a racist. Shoemake said that if Terry were a racist, we would “have found out earlier.”
“The recent issue involving Suarez and Evra has been more of an open-and-shut case in terms of racist claims. Suarez was banned for eight matches for his remarks aimed Evra. On his return, Suarez refused to shake Evra’s hand, making things even worse. According to Shoemake, these footballers are “professional and should act like professionals,” and therefore racism “should not be an issue.” Some believe that Evra’s celebration in front of Suarez at the conclusion of a tense game showcased Evra “getting caught up in the moment.” However, Evra’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, told the BBC that “you could see why he did it.” Since the handshake incident, Suarez has apologized for his actions, saying that he had “spoken with the manager since the game at Old Trafford and [he had] realize[d] [he] got things wrong.”
The wider problem of racism in the top tier of football is an outstanding one. The English captain has been sacked and three of England’s top club teams are embroiled in incidents that were commonplace 50 years ago. Shoemake made it clear that racism is much “worse in other sports” and believes it is a more shocking occurrence in English society than in American society, where he believes there is “tons more” racism, much of which is taken “less personally.”
Carper believes the issues facing the Premier League are “garbage” and that they need “to be resolved as soon as possible.” Sophomore Evan Sperr believes that action should be taken from the “highest authority”; FIFA has already implemented programs. He believes that FIFA’s current campaigns should be “made important at the highest level and passed down through all levels.”
On a more personal level, Carper says he has been the victim of racial insults while playing for the men’s soccer team at Principia and felt that if he attempted to do anything about it, he “would only escalate the conflict.” Carper believes action against racism is imperative, because “as long as people are ignorant,” there will still be racism in football at all levels.