Players and teams are increasingly speaking out against unacceptable behavior from fans and others.
Racism has been prevalent in sports for decades and even football is no stranger to it. Reports of racist chants and gestures, from players and fans alike, continue to be commonplace even today, prompting clubs all over the world to take a tough stance against them recently.
Here, we look at top five instances of European football clubs standing up against racism and social media abuse.
5. West Brom sack Nicolas Anelka for inappropriate gesture
In some rare cases, a football club is forced into punishing its own players for engaging in racism or racist gestures. Even if it means going as far as sacking them.
Nicolas Anelka was infamously dismissed by West Brom in March 2014 for doing the ‘quenelle’ gesture after scoring in a Premier League match against West Ham.
It’s a hand gesture popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala but widely seen as anti-Semitic.
He was initially given a five-game ban and fined £80,000 by the Football Association. However, the Frenchman’s refusal to apologize and accept a fine by the club prompted the Baggies to terminate his contract.
4. FA Cup tie between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town abandoned after racist chants
About a year before the last incident, a similar walkout was witnessed during an FA Cup game between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town.
The Borough players returned to the dressing room after their goalkeeper, Valery Pajetet, was racially abused by the away fans.
Premier League stars like Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings were quick to praise the move. Both players were subject to racist chants from Bulgarian fans while playing for England, just five days earlier.
3. Istanbul Basaksehir players walk off amid Champions League clash in racism row
Who says racism is exhibited only by the fans and players? A fourth official was guilty of pelting racial slur in 2020.
During a Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir in December 2020, a member of the refereeing team directed a racist term at the Turkish side’s assistant coach, a Cameroonian, after he was sent off.
Soon, the Basaksehir players walked off the pitch in protest while their PSG counterparts then followed in solidarity.
The match was resultantly called off and played the following day, with referee Sebastian Coltescu suspended from the rest of the season.
It was said to be the first time that a match of such a senior level was abandoned due to racism. However, that set a good precedent which is now being followed by many.
2. Swansea City announcing week-long social media boycott after players racially abused online
Swansea City turned up the heat on social media platforms in the fight against online abuse by deciding to shun its handles for a week.
In a groundbreaking move, the Championship side announced that it’s boycotting Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for seven days, starting this past Thursday, in response to a growing number of their players being racially abused.
Jamal Lowe became the latest Swan, after Yan Dhanda and Ben Cabango in the last two months, to be a target of racially motivated remarks on Instagram following the Welsh outfit’s defeat to Birmingham City in the league.
Swansea have also written directly to Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, appealing for stricter action. The club’s tough stance on racism has also inspired Birmingham and Scottish side Rangers to follow suit.
1. Bayern Munich launch anti-racism campaign with ‘Reds against Racism’ shirts
It didn’t take long for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement to reach Europe. Footballers started taking a knee in support of the cause, sending a strong message of anti-racism.
Bayern Munich, however, went one step further and launched a campaign of their own, called ‘Reds against Racism’.
As part of the initiative, several members of the club took part in a photoshoot and spoke about their own life journeys. It also entailed players gracing a white shirt with the slogan ‘Reds against Racism’ printed in German.
The campaign underlined Bayern’s commitment to the cause and also garnered widespread acclaim in the Bundesliga.