The FA this week charged Luis Suarez with making alleged racist comments against Patrice Evra during the Manchester United v Liverpool match earlier this season. On the heels of that, as reported by many news outlets including the Daily Mail, FIFA President Sepp Blatter believes that racial incidents on the pitch can be handled by a simple handshake. It was reported that when CNN asked him if there is still racism present in football, he said,
‘I would deny it,’ he said. ‘There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say that this is a game.
‘We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen. On the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game you have the next game where you can behave better.’
A handshake? Really? This is what Blatter is asking for. That at the end of the game one should just brush it off and move on. “Its only words”? And this is where the problems come in. It’s not just words; we aren’t going to go out and knock down a few beers after the match. It’s perception of the speaker and how they perceive the person it’s aimed at. Let’s face facts. Not everyone is that thick skinned not to mention this whole movement to stamp out racism and actually charge athletes who break the law. This stems from the simple fact that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.
On one side of it, I understand what Blatter wants to do but the reality is it’s not going to work and it’s not right. What really bothers me the most is with the two incidents that have happened (John Terry is the other still in question) along with the Tiger Woods incident that happened recently, and we can go down the line, there is this pattern. People tend to say malicious things to others and then all of a sudden, they want to apologize and hope that’s the end of it. Come on, really? You didn’t mean to say that? Am I one of the few people that was taught early on the lesson of “don’t say something now that you will have to apologize for later”? Granted, many of us failed a few times in that lesson but for myself, never in the magnitude that it would cost me my career or have legal implications. It’s a simple matter of people needing to think before they speak. Blatter, by saying there is no racism and if it is then shake on it, is seriously in denial.
The allegations that are on the table in the Premier League, if proven true, could have serious implications. But as a president, Blatter should not be so willing to let something go and dismiss it as not serious or as a mistake. If anything, if he is serious about there being no racism in football, then he needs to treat each incident seriously.
Let me make a challenge to anyone that thinks along the same lines as Blatter. Look in the mirror. Look at yourself and if you consider yourself someone that could ever be in a position that you could be discriminated against. Some of us may live in a place where a derogatory word would guarantee a fight, in our hometown, as a badge of honor. Either way, people know how to push another person’s buttons. Most of us are cognizant of the fact that we know where the line is in our speech. But I ask you to think back and find a time in your life where someone singled you out because you were the wrong color, gender, height, age, or size. Trust me, I have been there. If you were picked on because of those things, were you willing to give those involved a handshake? How hard was it to walk away? If it was someone you knew personally, did it affect your friendship? Conversely, if you were the one doing the harassing, were you so willing to ask for forgiveness for your actions, or were you as content to get away with it?
Think about it.