THE EDITOR, Sir:
Regarding columnist Orville Higgins' commentary on racist chants at football stadia, I want him to understand that racism begins as a thought/idea, which then becomes words and then action. Each is more insidious than the preceding.
While we cannot legislate what is in man's heart or mind, there is sufficient evidence that speech, left unchecked, can be incendiary and inciteful. Racist chants are not a playful tease of an opposing team; they are an attack on or abuse of an individual, unique in that they affect not just him at whom they are aimed, but other players, as well as fans and spectators.
And, make no mistake, racist chants are so utterly disgusting that they are not uttered except by true racists. They are the result of a disfigured belief system.
To suggest that racist chants at a stadium are protected by free-speech considerations is absurd. Free speech is not an absolute right everywhere. We all know the well-used example that shouting fire in a crowded theatre is not protected speech.
Similarly, a stadium is an invited gathering where regulations on seating, assembly, and public utterances are enforced. These are for the comfort, convenience, and protection of all those gathered, and will, in some cases, encroach on the liberties of each attendee. If you decide to attend, you have implicitly agreed to these limitations and curtailment.
UEFA and FIFA, in fact, all governing bodies for sports, must adopt and enforce zero tolerance for racism among both spectators and athletes. It not only makes sense for the spirit of competition and camaraderie among players, but it makes for greater fan appeal if attendees feel comfortable at the event(s), knowing they will not be subject to racist chants and abuse.
It is one of the appealing elements of American sporting events that racist chants and abuse are almost non-existent. They are not tolerated, neither by fans nor by the authorities. Hopefully, Europe will become similarly intolerant of this type of behaviour in their stadia and arenas.