We would love to believe that racism in sports is a thing of the past. That in the U.S Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and we’ve never looked back. We would like to believe this is the case in America but in some European soccer matches, it’s April 1947 all over again.
Several matches just this year have been halted, suspended or even cancelled because of racist chants and slurs from the crowd towards African American players.
At a match in Busto Arsizio, Italy, visiting team AC Milan walked off the field after incessant Neo-Nazi “For the Fatherland,” chants rained from the crowd.
In the Netherlands, a match was halted after several racist chants from the FC Den Bosch crowd were directed towards U.S African American player, Jozy Altidore.
“It’s a bit disappointing these things still happen in the time were in,” Altidore said.
As a response, the Den Bosch club has given those who chanted a week to turn themselves into the police. If they do not, the club threatened to use security footage to track down those who were involved with the incident.
“Could it be that the real reason soccer has been so slow to catch on in the United States is not because of the slow pace of the game? Maybe it has to do with the games provincialism,” says William Rhoden on his N.Y Times soccer blog. While this is more than likely not the sole reason for a stymied popularity in the U.S, it raises a unique question: Is soccer in some way shunned in the U.S because of the racism that surrounds the game in Europe? Undoubtedly, chants like this would not be allowed in any stadium at any venue in the United States. Club officials, the leagues and most importantly the fans would not allow for it.
That’s where the heart of the problem lies, fans tolerating racist chants and posters. In the U.S there is zero tolerance for racism at sporting events. That time has come and gone. Perhaps the fact that some European countries are so slow to learn what the U.S learned when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 reflects negatively on soccer in the minds of Americans. Perhaps it is a subconscious boycott until European soccer fans learn the inclusive way to behave at the game they themselves discovered.