It is the ugly problem that has always raised its head in all forms of society; however when the limelight of the sporting world moves towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the problem of racism in sport seems to be at the forefront again. It has long been known that this has been a problem, however, it had seemed for the moment at least, that the problem was under some sort of control. Cue the banana throwing fan in the recent Villarreal v Barcelona match.  What was surprising though, was the reaction, firstly of Alves, and then of his fellow professionals.

In January 2013, Kevin Prince Boating became the first footballer to ever have a game abandoned when he walked off the pitch in protest of racist chants that had taken place against him. This, in one sense is a respectable way to react in the face of abuse by fans. However, what was striking about the reaction of Alves, was what can be seen as his acceptance of the problem, by eating the banana. This could symbolise that the only way to try and stop the problem is by first accepting that some problems will never go away. By eating the banana he could have been implying that he is just going along with it in order to try and dismiss it. This has been followed by fellow professionals such as Neymar and Sergio Aguero, who have both been pictured eating bananas in support of the campaign. This could perhaps be the first step in a different direction to fight racism in sport.

In a recent BBC column, Lewis Hamilton recently stated; “Being F1’s first black driver is important”. In one of the richest sports in the world, one with the most glamour, it took until 2007 to see a black driver on the grid. From the rich resources of talent that are surrounded with the feeder series to Formula One, it took this long to see a black driver on the grid. Is this due to lack of talent, or was there still the tendency for the sport to show racial tendencies and choose white drivers?

Hamilton later in his column stated that; “It’s a pretty cool feeling to be the person to knock down a barrier”, showing his pride at breaking down the racial obstacle that has been associated with the sport. However, the racial abuse raised its head in Barcelona in 2008 when Spanish fans made jokes about Hamilton being a monkey. To any layperson, this would clearly be seen as a racist remark. However, supremo Bernie Ecclestone dismissed Hamilton’s claims, stating it was “just a bit of a joke” and that Spanish fans were “expressing themselves”. There are many ways of expressing yourself, but this clearly goes beyond all boundaries of expression. Mr Ecclestone has clearly tried to sidestep the problem, not admitting to the fact that even Formula One can be dragged down to such terrible problems. What this shows is complete ignorance of the problem and a lack of respect for it.

Even team owners are now becoming embroiled in racial slurs, over their own players. In April it came to light that LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling had made racist remarks to his wife, about her association with black players.  In a sport that, according to a 2013 study by Richard Lapchick, has 76.3 percent of its players in the NBA  coming from African-American origins. So in a game where the majority of the players are black or from a similar background, why the need for racism? Mr Sterling claims that the remarks were taken out of context, and were just made in relation to a lovers’ quarrel, however there is more to this. It shows off an archaic viewpoint of him not wanting to be associated with the black players at games, that he views himself in some ways as better than them, and doesn’t want himself or his wife to be publicly associated with them.

So, what is being done to tackle these issues? Different sports tend to tackle the issue in the same way. There are many campaigns now set up to stop racism from occurring. For example, football has the Kick It Out campaign while cricket has the One Game campaign. The question is, have these campaigns been successful?

What these campaigns do on the one hand is raise awareness of the problem before the public and try to encourage people against the use of racist humour. However, the problem goes much deeper than putting on t-shirts and putting up signs on advertising boards and stadiums. As seen this year, especially around Europe, there is still racism that creeps its way into sports. Other, more stringent measures have been taken. In the case of Donald Sterling, he was banned for life by the NBA and was given a £1.5 million fine. Real Madrid have recently been ordered to close parts of their stadium to fans during next season’s European matches.

Racism in sports still continues to be an underlying issue; there are still problems with how to tackle it. With what is supposed to be the biggest footballing event on earth, the World Cup, due in the next week, will this fantastic spectacle be ruined by racist undertones?

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