NOT writing about racism in sport for a few weeks feels like a record. However, it has reared its ugly head again not just in football but in tennis and cricket these past few days.
It is ludicrous that Mario Balotelli was booked for pointing out the racial abuse being hurled at him from the stands. It once again sends out the message that there is no point in reporting racism in the game because you as the victim end up being punished.
As Everton’s Mason Holgate found out at the end of 2017, the scrutiny falls on the abused and not the abuser and, until that changes, it will only get worse.
With a World Cup looming in Russia, things are looking bleak. That the English Football Association has charged West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez could be viewed as a positive, but my first question is why hasn’t there been any update with the Holgate and Roberto Firmino incident?
I get that the FA will want to get this right and so are taking their time, but how long does it take to call in a few lip-readers to make out what the Liverpool player said? This is really being dragged out and I hope it isn’t being swept to one side as they focus on new kit releases and corporate sponsors’ advertisements.
I really hope reports that Ryan Harrison racially abused Donald Young during their New York Open match on Monday are wrong. Why people need to use racist insults during any discussion is beyond me but it seems there has been a resurgence across sport.
Harrison has protested his innocence and the ATP have said they will review “all video and audio recording from the match.”
In cricket, South Africa’s governing body are investigating an allegation of racist abuse aimed at Imran Tahir by spectators in Johannesburg.
Videos posted online showed Tahir confronting people in the crowd, the leg-spinner visibly angry and upset by something. He does well to control himself and not attack the person who he believes was racially abusing him but this is a sorry sight in 2018.
It’s worrying that three of these incidents have taken place within three days of each other, across three sports in three countries. To argue that sport, and society generally, doesn’t have a clear racism problem is to bury your head in the sand.
More positively, it’s no secret that I am a fan of particular sports and may give others short shrift. That said, I have loved the Winter Olympics in South Korea so far.
I’ve been captivated by the curling, which hooks me every time, and I find myself applauding the shots despite not really knowing what’s going on.
It doesn’t really matter what sport is on, I can’t get enough. I was devastated for Elise Christie when she crashed out of the 500m speed skate final. I wasn’t aware of her heartbreak four years ago and seeing her talk about her journey really affected me.
I’m used to watching athletes try to win titles year in and year out. There is a quick turnaround and another chance. But not in the Olympics.
Four years in the making. Four years to put yourself in a position to win a gold medal and in a split second it gets taken away from you. I have no idea how someone can put that behind them and go again a few days later, as Christie has to do so this weekend.
“Right now, I just can’t see living with this feeling,” she said. “It’s out of my control. I got knocked over and that’s that.”
The men’s biathlon was a surprise too — seeing these athletes waddle through the snow
But putting the last few days into perspective are what Ryan Mason and Pita Taufatofua are having to endure, with both a stark reminder that there is more to life than sport.
Mason was forced to retire from football yesterday after a head horrific injury sustained just over 12 months ago.
I felt it was always a long shot he would play again but the entire sport was hoping for a miracle and to see the former Tottenham midfielder cross the white line at least one more time.
That he can’t is devastating but here’s hoping he has a bright future in whatever he decides to do next.
As for Taufatofua, the Tongan flag bearer is struggling to stay focused on the Winter Olympics after seeing parts of his homeland destroyed by a cyclone at the start of the week.
It’s not surprising that he wants to be back home helping out — and hopefully we can see the compassion of athletes and spectators make a different. American football star JJ Watt set up a funding drive for the people of Houston last year and raised over $20 million for Hurricane Harvey victims.
And finally, my thoughts are with the family of former Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson, who died on February 4.
The 26-year-old was tragically killed by a drunk driver. That US president Donald Trump attempted to use the death of the player to stir up hate against immigrants is further proof, were any needed, of the vile human he is.
This wasn’t the time to try to score points with racist voters yet it didn’t stop him. Sometimes personal agendas and vendettas need to be put to one side as we take time out from the games and matches to reflect on the bigger picture.
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