January 16, 2008

"It's just part of the game"

I play, coach, and work in the game with a wide variety of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Sadly, I've seen and heard more than a couple of embarrassing incidents. However, I recently saw something that really ticked me off.

One of the players I coach was called a racial slur and spit on during the first half of a tournament game. It wasn't the first time I've heard that word used on a field, and I know it won't be the last. At halftime, the player told those of us on the sideline about the incident. Our staff talked to the referees, and then some jawing broke out between the two teams over the issue.

When confronted about what he did, the offending player said (paraphrasing), "What's the big deal? It's just part of the game."

Is it really? Should it be? It's sad that our game has come to that. I understand that trash talking goes on in every game. Every little advantage you can find to get a step ahead of your opponents, you use it. You can say that guy kicks like a little girl, he smells funny, his haircut is wack, his shoes are untied, whatever you want to get him off his game.

When you're reduced to pulling out racial slurs in order to take someone off their game, you must be pretty desperate.

If it's true that this sort of thing has become part of the game, and I don't think it truly has, then it needs to be eliminated. If cursing can get you a card, then racial slurs should get you tossed. If saying these things from the stands can get you thrown out of a game, and possibly forfeit the game to the opponents, then it should result in a red card when it happens on the field.

It actually shocked me that the player didn't seem to understand that what he did was wrong. He really thought it was just part of the game. That scares me...


Kinney said...

The "it's just part of the game" is what started a lot of the racist chants in European supporters groups. That obviously moved beyond "just" verbal racism due to a variety of factors, but the "anything to throw off the other players" is what started it.

Basically, if it something FIFA has special tribunals on when fans yell it at professional players, it shouldn't belong between trash talking players either. This is especially true at the amateur level. It doesn't matter if it is "part of the game," it matters that it is wrong.

The Manly Ferry said...

I love free speech...a lot. But this isn't a "thought police" situation, but one of proportion. This little twerp is playing a game and there's no game that's so important - not even a World Cup friggin' final - where pulling this kind of s%$# should be tolerated. This kid, and anyone who pulls that kind of s%#$, should be suspended - and for a couple games. That's more than a red.

If he wants to talk like that away from the field, he can knock himself out (here's to hoping he does). But in a place where rules govern behavior, yeah, nail 'im.

Jefa said...

That's why sanctioning bodies need to be held accountable. They're the ones that truly set the tone for what's happening on the front line. If it's tolerated, even implicitly, then you'll see it until severe action is taken.

I think it's about time that these organizations took a proactive approach and begin some sort of diversity training. If this player didn't even know that what he said was wrong, then he is, in the very least, ignorant and should have the opportunity to be educated.

League leaders, board members, coaches and officials should have the opportunity to learn about the ramifications of these actions and should take a stand to not let it happen. They need to send a message to the players and fans that it is A GAME and racial epithets, insults and denigration are not a part of it.