Luis Suárez and 10 Other Footballers Who Have Been Accused of Racism
For a game so wonderfully global as football, one of its biggest and most persistent problems continues to be the trend of racist conduct—by players, fans, managers, pundits and others.
Now, the discourse over racism in football is reignited as today, Liverpool striker Luis Suárez was charged with racism by the FA after Manchester United defender Patrice Evra accused him of repeated use of a racist slur during the heated 1-1 draw between the two sides on October 15th.
The incident is under investigation and as with anyone, Suárez is innocent until proven guilty, but whether he did that what he is accused of doing or not, the altercation between Suárez and Evra is sadly, hardly a unique situation in world football.
Maybe the players and fans can all learn something from the past and we'll all be better off. If there are any other instances in recent years you wish to share or discuss, as always, have at it in the comments.
Here are 10 more instances in which footballers across the world were accused of racist conduct and the results of their cases.
Sometimes, a firestorm of controversy can happen without anyone uttering a word.
In 2007, Olympique Lyonnais striker Milan Baros was accused of racial abuse towards Cameroonian international Stephane M'Bia during a match against Stade Rennes.
Footage emerged on French television of Baros pinching his nose and waving his hand away at M'Bia, a gesture M'Bia took to mean Baros was implying he had a bad odor and that the gesture was racially motivated.
Although Baros admitted to the gesture and said he regretted it, he denied that it had racial overtones.
The club backed Baros' defense in a statement:
"Milan Baros merely wanted to tell (Mbia) something he didn't know how to say in French: 'leave me alone and give me breathing space.'"
Baros was cleared of the charges of racism by the Ligue de Football Professionnel, but was still suspended for three matches for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Argentine international spent a night in police custody following a 2005 Copa Libertadores match, taken in for questioning after an altercation with Brazilian striker Grafite.
The Quilmes defender was accused of making racist remarks at the São Paulo striker following a row between the Brazilian and Desabato's teammate, Carlos Arano. Arano and Grafite were both sent off, although no disciplinary action was taken on the pitch towards Desabato.
The entire Quilmes squad stayed in São Paulo to wait for Desabato, and Grafite eventually dropped the charges, although the incident sparked a conversation about racism in South American football.
According to Kick It Out's post on the incident, Brazilian legend Pelé dismissed Grafite's claims, "reminding others that his response to such abuse was to bury the offenders under an avalanche of goals."
The Oxford United legend-turned-itinerant English manager-turned-ITV football pundit should have probably checked his mic before the comments he made about Chelsea's Marcel Desailly.
Prior to a 2004 Champions League match, Atkinson, thinking the microphone he was speaking into was off, referred to Desailly as "what is known in some schools as a f––g lazy, thick n——."
Reaction to the incident was swift, with Atkinson making a public apology and leaving ITV and The Guardian by mutual consent, and according to The Guardian, he lost more than £1 million as ties with commercial ventures with which he was associated were severed.
In an interview, Atkinson showed remorse over the incident, referring to himself as "an idiot, but I'm not a racist."
Part of what made the Atkinson incident so shocking was his previous track record with signing and advancing the careers of black British and Caribbean footballers, among them Laurie Cunningham, Brendan Batson and Cyrille Regis. Carlton Palmer, who played under Atkinson at Sheffield Wednesday, told the BBC:
"I'm black and I'm sitting here and I'm gonna stand up for Big Ron not because he's a friend of mine, I'm standing up for him because I know what he's like as a bloke.
If we're going to deal with racism then let's deal with the bigger picture of racism, not about a throwaway comment that wasn't meant in that manner."
The former striker and Euro-winning Spain coach was accused of racism in 2005 when, in an attempt to motivate former Arsenal striker José Antonio Reyes, he made remarks against Reyes' club-mate Thierry Henry:
"Tell that negro de mierda [black s***] that you are much better than him. Tell him from me. You have to believe in yourself; you're better than that negro de mierda."
Spanish journalists overheard Aragonés' remarks and they were broadcast all over the media. Both Aragonés and Reyes denied the racism allegations, claiming that the coach's remarks were meant to be as a joke and a motivator.
Three years later, prior to Arsenal's face-off against Fenerbahçe (where Aragonés was then coaching) in a 2008 Champions League match, manager Arséne Wenger, who had coached Henry and Reyes, came out in defense of Aragonés, calling his words "clumsy" but maintaining that the coach was not racist:
"At that time, you remember, that was during the training session, he wanted to motivate Reyes but it was a very clumsy sentence. The information I have, he is not a racist."
Aragonés made a formal apology and paid a fine of €3,000 for his remarks, although many expected the fine to be as high as £22,000, or that he would be sacked. Members of anti-racism organization Kick It Out were disappointed by the size of the fine.
Another manager who came under fire for racist remarks was the late itinerant Dutch boss Fritz Korbach, who received serious backlash from the KNVB for his comments about black players in the Eredivisie in a 1991 interview.
When talking to the media, Korbach, then in charge of Heerenveen, referred to Netherlands international Bryan Roy as the "n-word" and called Brazilian international Romário that "coffee bean from PSV." Korbach said his remarks were only "voetbaltaal," or "football language," but the KNVB censured him and suspended him for a match.
El Clásico is one of the sporting world's most heated and bitter rivalries, and in the thick of the tension, tempers flare and controversial things are sometimes said and done.
When Barcelona and Real Madrid met in the Champions League semi-finals late last season, the bad blood between these feuding La Liga sides was at an all-time high.
Following the march, Real Madrid released a video on the club television channel showing evidence of what appeared to be Barça's Sergio Busquets shouting "mono, mono" (Spanish for "monkey") at Real Madrid's Marcelo. Busquets was to face a five-match ban if found guilty, but UEFA cleared him of the charges and he was allowed to play in the Champions League final for Barça.
Busquets' actions were just one of a number of reasons both sides filed complaints in the wake of the match: Real Madrid attempted to appeal Pepe's disputed red card and the sending-off of Thiago Motta, while Barcelona filed over Jose Mourinho's heated post-match comments, all which were rejected by UEFA.
If anything, the Busquets incident and the others of this match only served to galvanize what is already one of football's bitterest rivalries.
One rather high-profile accusation of racism that has come up quite a bit in the discourse surrounding the Suárez incident is that of former Liverpool defender Steve Harkness, who Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore accused of racist abuse at a 1998 match at Villa Park.
As Collymore recalled, later printed in The Guardian:
"I was being wound up all game and was getting racial abuse ... Harkness called me a coon. There were also other things said that were even worse. It was racial abuse of the worst kind and totally out of order ... It hurt me very much indeed and I am still considering whether to make an official complaint. I went out of my way to tell the black players at Liverpool what had happened. Harkness has to live with them as well as himself."
As the PFA investigated Collymore's claims, Harkness denied the accusations:
"I vehemently deny the accusation that I made racist comments to Stan Collymore during or after the game at Aston Villa on Saturday. The particular background to this game may have meant that there was more going on on the pitch than is usual, but that does not extend to racial abuse of any kind."
The case is still used as a point of reference when discussing race relations among players within English football.
Jelle Van Damme
Back in 2009, Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme got into an altercation with American international Oguchi Onyewu and was accused of making racist remarks. Standard Liege defender Oneywu claimed that Van Damme, then at RSC Anderlecht, referred to him as a "dirty monkey" among other insults.Van Damme denied the allegations, saying Onyewu had called him a "dirty Flemish":
"On the pitch there’s a lot of nervousness and many things are said in the heat of the moment. I think supporters understand intimidation is part of the game. Of course, there are limits to it. I want to make it clear I’m definitely not a racist.“
Onyewu's lawyer said he tried to alert the match referee, Johann Verbist, who was unable to resolve the issue, saying, "I could do nothing. It was the word of one man against another." The American player lodged a legal complaint in a Belgian court in an effort to put an end racist behavior on the pitch.
As Onyewu's Belgian attorney, Jean-Louis Dupont, told Sports Illustrated:
"It is not a question whether Van Damme is racist. The issue is that these slurs are still used on the pitch, and are being used because they know it hurts."
Arsenal's star striker Ian Wright and Manchester United's star keeper Peter Schmeichel were pitted against each other in one of English football's most contentious and memorable feuds, which came to a rather serious head in February 1997 when Wright accused Schmeichel of making racist remarks at him during a rather heated match, and the FA investigation went back several months further, when Schmeichel was accused of referring to Wright as a "black bastard" during a November 1996 match.
Since then, Schmeichel and Wright have had a more amicable relationship, even appearing together to represent Team Europe in the All-Star Cup celebrity golf tournament in 2005.
In another recent high-profile case, Chelsea star John Terry came under fire after he was accused of calling Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand (the brother of Terry's England teammate Rio Ferdinand) a "f***ing black c***" during QPR's 1-0 victory last month.
Terry has maintained his innocence and teammate Frank Lampard and manager Andre Villas-Boas have vouched for his innocence. The Chelsea defender said his words were taken out of context, as he put it in a statement:
"I thought Anton was accusing me of using a racist slur against him. I responded aggressively, saying that I never used that term. I would never say such a thing, and I'm saddened that people would think so."
The London Metropolitan Police and the FA are investigating the incident. In the meantime, Terry has maintained his England captaincy, playing in the Three Lions' recent friendly victory over Sweden.