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Off the pitch: Here’s why we need to stop ignoring racism in futbol

Football is the most popular sport in the world. It transcends arbitrary global borders and unites nearly every country to a common cause: seeing its team win.

Football is about chemistry, brotherhood/sisterhood, kindness, and devout passion for a club and the beauty it creates on the pitch.

But soccer is being tainted, and while it is not due to a new epidemic, the results are still shocking and devastating in a world and sport that considers itself progressive.

Football players are being racially abused by fans, and the action taken by the league governing bodies has not been enough to discourage perpetrators from continuing to spew their racial taunts.

Football, “soccer” for the American layman, is at the mercy right now of racist people within the sport, and the failure of the governing bodies to do anything about it shows a clear lack of care for the players of color that are powerless victims in these situations.

Fans present at games have been taunting and shouting racist slurs at players for years, but the era in which we live now should carry no leniency for these actions.

That does not mean any injustice should have been tolerable in the past, but in 2019, there are no excuses.

Every week, it seems there is a new story of a player subject to racial taunts and slurs, and it is made even more public by the fact that it often takes place in the four major leagues in Europe: Italy, France, Germany, and England.

Yesterday, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger was racially abused by Tottenham fans in a rival match of two giant London clubs. Rudiger, a German, is also black, and the torment he endured is just the latest string in a long chapter over the past few years of black footballers being abused.

Last year, Italian Mario Balotelli was the subject of several racial attacks, after one of which he walked off the field in protest, returned, and scored the game-winning goal.

Star Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku has also been the victim of severe racial abuse at the hands of opposing fans in Italy.

Yesterday, after the most recent verbal assault in England, many still felt little action to remedy the problem.

Former player and current analyst Gary Neville gave an impassioned speech about how serious the issue of racism is in European football, and how players should have the confidence, and the right, to walk off the pitch if they or their teammate is being attacked.

The televisions anchor’s response was to make it clear that those feelings are Neville’s and not Sky Sports.

For a TV Channel to be so spineless by not taking a side on a clear issue is pitiful. It also shows that there is a bigger problem in England, just like the U.S., where large corporations and institutions want to steer clear from racial or human rights issues because it may affect their bottom line.

This cowardice almost singlehandedly gives power to the disrupters, the abusers, the racists, and puts players (specifically those of color) in positions to fail.

Do better, Sky Sports.

The English Premier League, Italian Serie A, and all leagues across Europe have to do a better job at combatting racism.

All sports are about love, dedication, and passion. Yet with instances of racial abuse like what we saw yesterday, the game is tarnished and the message is muddied up.

The game that inspired brotherhood, kindness, and positivity is relegated to being about divisiveness. The beauty that is created on the pitch is ultimately forgotten due to the racial abuse that overshadows it.

I hope the league offices, television channels, and managers give their players the freedom and confidence to walk off the pitch if they feel their rights and dignity being taken away. This is a massive moment in the world because sports can inspire so much change.

We just have to hope the change will be on the side of justice.