Donald Sterling and Racism in Sport

NBA: New Orleans Hornets at Los Angeles ClippersSo this story has been going for a few days now but it’s not had that much coverage in the UK until the ruling was made. Basically Donald Sterling was the owner of the LA Clippers basketball team (Star player is probably Blake Griffin: and he was caught on tape saying to someone that he ‘didn’t want black people at his games’. This came out and the NBA commissioner (same level as Sepp Blatter) has banned him for LIFE from the NBA and fined him $2.5 MILLION.

When someone is racist this is what should happen and in this respect american sports are far ahead of ours. Another example is the Rooney Rule in NFL that says for every Head Coach post the team has to interview someone from an ethnic minority for that job. This has lead to their being 4 African-American head coaches in the NFL. That’s about 12% of the leagues 32 teams.

In England there are 92 league clubs and no ethnic managers… zero. If the NFL had 92 teams it would be a reasonable assumption to make that there would be about 12 ethnic coaches, yet there a none in the English leagues, this needs to change.

The way the NBA has handled this situation is spot on. UEFA were faced with a similar situation when England under 21’s played Serbia. There was racist chants from Serbian players/coaches/fans and it ended with 4 players got bans (the Serbian FA later banned two of these players for a year), 2 coaches were banned for two years and they received a £60,000 fine. The two English players who bore the brunt of the abuse also got bans for reacting to that abuse and being sent off.
The £60,000 (about $100,000) fine was a joke. UEFA gave Nicklas Bendtner an £80,000 for showing a sponsors logo at EURO 2012. They gave fines of £16,700 and £32,500 to Porto and Lazio following racist chanting and then gave Manchester City a fine £24,735 for being a minute late onto the pitch. If UEFA and FIFA are serious about getting rid of racism they need to take a leaf out of the NBA’s book and hand out serious fines and serious suspensions. In a game where players can earn up to £300,000 a week, handing out a third of that as a fine for racism is ridiculous.

I understand that the games are different and situations slightly different but racism is a problem in sport and the fact the NBA game Sterling a fine that was 25 times larger than the fine UEFA handed out shows how poorly UEFA have handled such situations.

The FA banned Luis Suarez for 8 games and fined him £60,000 when he was found guilty of racist behaviour and while I agree that this is more powerful than any of the UEFA examples above it is still not enough. You could argue the 8 game ban was enough as it kept Liverpool from having their best player for almost 20% of the league season but the £60,000 is again ridiculous. Suarez earns the best part of £200,000 a week. So that fine is about 30% of just 1 weeks wage. Imagine a bank worker who earns £20,000 a YEAR was guilty of the same racism behaviour towards a colleague, there is not a chance that the company would only ban them for 10 weeks (20% of the year) and fine them £115 (30% of a weeks wage). It’s more than likely they would be immediately fired but because Suarez is the best at what he does and an irreplaceable commodity for Liverpool he gets off much lighter than he should and the problem of racism is sport is never fully discouraged.

EDIT: Going off on a slight tangent a few years ago Charles Itandje, a backup goal keeper for Liverpool, was accused of inappropriate behaviour during a Hillsborough memorial service at the club. Because of this behaviour he never played for the club again. Now I’m not saying what he did was okay because clearly it wasn’t but because he was only a backup keeper, never destined to set the world alight, they could make a statement and let him go. Had it been Suarez doing the same thing I doubt the outcomes would have been the same because of how important he is to the club. My point with this tangent is that no matter what the ‘crime’ is a football may commit their punishments will vary from player to player dependant on their importance. This is why I applaud the NBA because even though Sterling was an owner of a franchise they still gave him a massive punishment.