Thu | Apr 19, 2018

Don't empower football racists

Published:Friday | January 11, 2013 | 12:00 AM
AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, of Ghana, sports an anti-racism jersey at San Siro Stadium in Italy. - AP
Orville Higgins

Orville Higgins

The business of black footballers walking off the field following racist taunts is becoming disturbing. These footballers are going about things entirely the wrong way.

Like every other black person, I am against racism. I find it abominable that anyone should be discriminated against because of their skin colour; and like every other black person, I would want it to stop. This is maybe the only area where I share common ground with many people of my own race, though.

Where I differ from a lot of people, for instance, is that my problem with racism is with what people DO as opposed to what they SAY. I have absolutely no problems whatsoever with people making monkey chants (whatever that is) in a stadium. An individual should be allowed to go into a stadium and sound like any animal he feels like! If he wants to yap like a dog or purr like a cat, that should be his right. If he wants to sound like a monkey, so be it. As to a white man in the stands saying how much of a nigger a footballer is, why should there be any laws against that?

Those who oppose racist chants do so mainly on the basis that it can lead to violence. Sure, it might, but we can't create a law for something that 'may' happen. It has long been known, for example, that the consumption of alcohol does cause some people to behave rowdy, and yet we don't ban alcohol at most sporting venues. We accept that a man who has had two pints too many may well be inclined to act more aggressively, but we punish what he does, not what we think he might do.

ignore slurs from poor whites

Why shouldn't an individual's inherent right to free speech allow him to say anything he feels like in a stadium, so long as the players are physically safe?

Why black footballers are this riled up about racist chants is beyond me. I can understand that a poor black man, who hasn't had time, or the means, to develop his identity and sense of self can be affected by a person telling him how much of a subhuman he is because of the colour of his skin. I truly sympathise with such black men when they are exposed to racist abuse.

But these black, professional footballers are, for the most part, millionaires. Many of them are taking home up to J$5 million a week! How does a man who is paid J$5 million every Friday, probably with a Bentley parked at home, in his three-storey mansion, with Persian rugs and swimming pool, allow himself to feel offended by what some poor white people in a stand feel about his colour? The thing makes absolutely no sense.

As Clarence Seedorf, himself a black professional footballer, said, those like Kevin-Prince Boateng who walk off the field following racist chants are doing nothing but empowering those doing it.

Which brings me to FIFA and its eagerness to be appearing to do something about racist chants. My advice to FIFA is that legislation will not stop the ugly practice. It will do nothing but provide temporarily relief. Legislation hasn't stopped people from killing people! People will do whatever they want to do, providing they are motivated enough, and if they feel the reward is big enough.

Banning stadiums and fining racist chanters is like lying on a leaking roof to stop the rain from going into the house! It's only a matter of time before we realise we are wasting time.

The best way to get white people to stop making racist chants at black people is for black people to send a message to white people that racist chants no longer affect them. Any day black footballers come out and make a collective statement that we are not bothered in the least by racist chants, that is the day when the practice will stop!

No white man goes into a stadium to hoarse out himself shouting at blacks, if he knows this will have no effect. Black footballers who walk off the field after racist abuse are not doing any harm, but they are not doing the cause any real good at all.

Orville Higgins is a sportscaster at KLAS FM. Email feedback to