Racism in sport is still a huge problem despite recent initiatives

What is needed to change the mindset toward players?
Racism in sport is still a huge problem despite recent initiatives

Benetton’s Cherif Traore takes to the field. Picture: INPHO/Luca Sighinolfi

RACISM has been an underlying problem in sports for years now, and even in 2022, this dilemma is not getting any better.

Most people would probably agree that we should aspire to live in a world in which race matters less and the world of sport should be no different.

It seems that the high-intensity settings of sports only create an environment where athletes and players feel they can get away with saying these discriminatory comments.

Sports should act as a stepping stone to combat racism, a playing field in which everyone is welcome regardless of the colour of their skin. There have been countless first-person accounts of players receiving vile comments about their appearance or their heritage from hecklers in the stands right down to the athletes on the opposite teams.

One of the most recent acts of racism which sparked outrage on social media occurred over the Christmas period.

A black Italian rugby player, Cherif Traore, took to his Instagram page after receiving a “rotten banana” during a ‘Secret Santa’ anonymous gift exchange.

This ‘gift’ was part of his club, Benetton’s Christmas affair and Traore said that “what hurt me the most was to see that most of my teammates who were present were laughing. As if it was all normal”.

Since the incident players and coaches within the rugby circle have rallied round to demand that Benetton took further action against the staff member was involved, who has since been suspended. This story appears like it should have happened years ago and not in 2022 when there has been endless #NoToRacism campaigns in every form of sport, why is the message still not getting through?

If you turn your attention to soccer, where once taking a knee was a sign of solidarity as part of the ‘No Room for Racism’ campaign during October of this year. This gesture became part of the fabric of football for a two-year period following the death of George Floyd in May 2022 and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, yet its impact seems to be diminished.

Clusters of fans across England began booing the action, while some black players stopped taking the knee due to the lack of real work going on behind the scenes to address the issues being protested about.

This led the Premier League chiefs to decide that the gesture would be used sparingly throughout the 2022/23 campaign, but since the death of Floyd, has anything changed around the issue of discrimination and inclusion?

It appears that these expressions of solidarity and campaigns by sporting bodies only seem to disguise the fact that not much is being done to protect or help the players that are still receiving abuse while participating in their chosen sports.

Some of these athletes are at the top of their sports, yet they receive little to no help when dealing with these issues. Black athletes appear like they must deal with racist issues on their own and are then expected to go out and perform with these thoughts running through their heads.


Why should they have to put up with abuse when their white counterparts don’t receive half the extent that black players do?

A mindset change must come about for people that still believe that these players don’t deserve to be playing on teams or even making a match-day squad.

Black players deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else on their team. They are all representing the same club with the exact same goal of winning in mind.

Looking ahead to the new year it is difficult to see a systemic change in the way black players are treated within sports, but with minor changes and the public generally not standing for racist acts like the one that occurred in Benneton rugby, a shift can be made. People need to realise that no one deserves to receive insults about skin colour and even more so in sports, where the playing field should be equal.

The public and sporting organisations need to do more to change this outdated mindset about players who are black so that they can enjoy playing sports exactly like everyone else.

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