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Racism and Football: Let’s Talk About It, Again.

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Players shouldn’t have to beg fans to stop being racist, and yet here we are.

Liverpool FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The Liverpool Offside has talked about racism in football and how sports are never, ever apolitical. And it’s disheartening to see that sports—a refuge for so many of us—are still somewhere that racism is allowed to thrive.

This weekend, Tottenham’s Son Heung-min was shown a red card after a cynical attack on Chelsea’s Antonio Rüdiger, and Tottenham fans immediately responded with racist chants. The stadium made several announcements requesting that the racist chants be stopped because they were “interfering with the game”, but the rest of FIFA’s protocols (the game being stopped and players walking off) were not followed. Rüdiger has made a statement urging a public discussion about racism in sports and Tottenham is launching an investigation to identify the fans involved.

The fact of the matter is, we can talk about what should be done and how racism has no place in football until we’re all blue in the face, but absolutely nothing is going to change until the game is stopped, players walk off, and clubs are docked points. And players, including Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum have made it clear that they’re willing to walk off the pitch if they hear racist abuse from the stands.

“Why should I play in that case?” Gini asked CNN Sport in November. ”I think everyone should [walk off]. I think that’s the way you support another person, because why should you go on? If you play on, it will never stop.”

I’ve spoken about being a marginalised person in football fandom in these fraught political times over at Unusual Efforts. It’s obviously a lot worse being a Black player trying to do your job while hearing racist abuse thrown at you by fans. The onus here has to be on non-Black players (especially team captains) and coaches to make a stand and call for a walk off the next time this happens.