L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been under heavy scrutiny following his recorded conversation with associate V. Stiviano where he was quoted as saying “(It) bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” Protests within the NBA followed, fans brought signs to the games showing their support towards the Clippers and their disproval towards Donald Sterling.
Within days, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference confirming that Donald Sterling would be banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million, the maximum fine permissible under the league bylaws. The Golden State Warriors were due to play the Clippers hours after Silver announced the sanctions and had the punishment been more lenient for Sterling, Stephen Curry claimed the game would have never happened. “It would have been our only chance to make a statement in front of the biggest audience that we weren’t going to accept anything but the maximum punishment,” Curry said, “We would deal with the consequences later but we were not going to play.” Fortunately, the maximum punishment was given for Donald Sterling and a message was sent to everyone around the league.
The situation draws parallels to recent racism rows in England. In October 2011, John Terry was also under the spotlight after being accused of racially abusing then QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. Although John Terry claimed he never said anything racist towards Ferdinand and was cleared by Westminster Magistrates’ Court, The FA decided they found enough evidence to declare John Terry guilty and handed him a punishment. The punishment: A fine of £220,000 and a four match ban.
Compared to the NBA response, this punishment was laughable. It took the NBA days to come to a conclusion and they punished Sterling immediately. Terry’s case went on for ten months until a decision was made and the punishment was lenient.
The same thing could be said of the Luis Suarez case, as he was deemed to have racially insulted Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. The comments were made on the 15th of October with the punishment being made in December. Suarez was found guilty and given a fine of £40,000 and an eight match ban. Again the punishment wasn’t close to that of the NBA against Sterling.
Recently in Spain, Barcelona star Dani Alves had a banana thrown at him by a ‘fan’ as he went to take a corner. His witty response towards the action was to eat the banana and continue to take the corner. Thousands responded on social media to support Alves, with his Barcelona teammate Neymar posting a picture of himself and his son eating a banana with the hashtag of ‘We Are All Monkeys.’ Many others within football and outside the sport have come out with photos similar to support the fight against racism. It was later determined that the incident was a PR campaign.
However, these situations serve to draw more light to how prevalent racism still is in soccer. When it comes down to it, the Football Association and FIFA have not done enough to remove racism out of soccer. ‘Kick It Out’ and ‘Show Racism The Red Card’ are just few of the many campaign groups within soccer with their goal of trying to stop racism but with FIFA’s refusal of giving maximum bans towards players and lack of support towards the one who are abused it feels as if unless the players stand up against it, no one will.
What the NBA and Adam Silver have done is one small step to a massive goal, banning an owner of a club and giving him the maximum fine sends a strong message that racism will not be tolerated in sport. Actions like these are the only way to remove such overt racism from the game.