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Jaimie Fuller: While FIFA Says Racism is Fixed, Athletes in the US Kneel

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The 12th FIFA Anti-Discrimination Days took place on 26 and 27 June at the two semi-final matches of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 in Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza. As in past years, the activities included a special pre-match protocol involving both teams on the pitch, during which team captains read out a declaration against discrimination. The two teams and the match officials then came together in the middle of the pitch to display a banner condemning discrimination in the name of football. Photo: FIFA.com

There have been a few issues swirling around in recent weeks.

The big, and ongoing, one is the continuing fallout from the McLaren Report and the more recent hacking of World Anti-Doping Agency data. So many people have written so much about this issue that I don’t feel as if I could add anything new to the debate, other than this.

It is a matter I’ve written about previously. A world anti-doping authority needs to be completely independent of the IOC and independent of sporting organizations.

In an ideal world, it would become part of a much larger world sport anti-corruption authority that looks at governance reform, anti-corruption and bribery, doping, match-fixing, gender equity in sport and racism. Sport is crying out for it.

The second issue I want to highlight is racism and my old friends at FIFA.

Along with my colleagues at #NewFIFANow, I’ve been pretty quiet about FIFA in recent months. Deliberately so. FIFA has a President who was elected a little over nine months ago, and a chief executive who started just over three months ago. We’re giving them time to get their feet under their desks and make the changes they say they will.

But it’s not a great start. There are many reasons why it’s not a great start  but the most recent face-smacking decision is to disbanded their Anti-Racism Taskforce.

Why? Because according to FIFA, racism in football is okay now. They didn’t bother to tell the chairman of the Taskforce, and the world was not alerted to it until one of the members tweeted about the letter he received, without any forewarning, telling him it was disbanded! And this is at a time when their next two major tournaments – the Confederations Cup in 2017 and World Cup in 2018 – are being held in Russia!

All I can do is shake my head. As I said, there’s more; but it will wait for another day.

On the same theme, the third issue is around the athletes who have recently taken action against racism in their own country, the United States, by not standing for their national anthem.

In case you’re not aware of the background to this, it started in August when San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick announced he would not stand for the national anthem as a way of calling attention to police violence and injustice in black America. His protest was in response to several high-profile and fatal police shootings of black American men which, regrettably almost weekly, are in the news.

The protest has spread. Across the NFL, high school sporting events and even to national team events where women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe opted to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner before the US women’s team recent game against Thailand. She was officially “warned” by US Soccer.

What strikes me – but doesn’t surprise me – about the protest is the reaction to it.

For some athletes, the action has resulted in the loss of income. Denver Broncos’ Brandon Marshall lost two sponsorships, and gained one, because he joined-in. At the weekend in Nebraska, local university star Michael Rose-Ivey and team mates were told they “deserved to be lynched”. Isn’t that a case in point?

Those who criticise athletes such as Kaepernick, Rapinoe, Marshall, Rose-Ivey and many others appear to forget about the deaths of black men and boys who have died at the hands of police in recent years. Kaepernick says he’ll stand again when he believes there has been significant change and “the American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.”

Critics focus on the protest and the so-called “selfishness” or “divisiveness” of it, rather than the issue at hand: that is, racial inequality is a huge issue in the US.

In my view, Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, got it right in this week’s debate when she said that race determines too much – where people live, the education they get and how they are treated in the criminal justice system. President Obama recently cited research which shows that African-Americans are 30 per cent more likely than white Americans to be pulled over by police, three times more likely to be searched, twice as likely to be arrested and twice as likely to be shot by a law enforcement officer.

For me, the action is a powerful symbol. For its time and cultural context, it is as important as the one I wrote about here in respect of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the action of John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman.

By Jaimie Fuller

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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