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A THORNY ISSUE: Racism has no place in sports

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: Racism has no place in sports

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The practice of racism in any form is outrageous.
Sport is identified as a medium which transcends colour, class and creed, so when racism comes into play in this arena it draws immediate attention.  
Donald Sterling’s alleged racist statements, slanted against Blacks, are horrendous but might very well mirror where others of his ilk stand.
We mustn’t forget, either, that at a Spanish premier league match last week between Villareal and Barcelona, a Villareal fan threw a banana in the path of Barcelona defender Dani Alves who peeled it and ate a piece before taking a corner.
Alves’ response wasn’t venomous but impactful in an environment that is growing in European football in particular.
The club has banned the offending fan from attending their games for life.
Mario Ballotelli has frequently been racially abused in his native Italy’s Serie A league. Kevin-Prince Boateng famously led AC Milan off the field after suffering similar abuse.   
If all of the evidence against Sterling is true, the NBA’s action to ban him for life from the league is appropriate.
After all, there are Blacks on the Los Angeles Clippers helping to keep the franchise alive, so if an individual has a problem with their race, why should he be allowed to capitalise on their talent?
It has been revealed that Sterling has a history of racial discrimination in his business practices, like refusing to rent his properties to people based on their colour.
This guy seems to have a terminal problem.   
The host of the BBC’s popular Top Gear show, Jeremy Clarkson, has been the source of recent racist allegations as well.
He was contrite for using a racial term during the taping of one of his shows.
He denied the charge initially until a British newspaper produced the offending footage proving he had used the “N” word in a nursery rhyme.
He was quoted as saying: “I was mortified by this, horrified. It’s a word I loathe, and I did actually use the word I was trying to obscure.”
The BBC issued a statement on the matter.
“Jeremy Clarkson has set out the background to this regrettable episode. We have made it absolutely clear to him, the standards the BBC expects on air and off. We have left him in no doubt how seriously we view this.”
Ironically, one of his colleagues, Richard Hammond defended him with these words: “I can list a million things wrong with him but he is absolutely not racist. An idiot, yes.”
In a previous incident, there was an outcry when Clarkson named his black dog Didiier Drogba after the Ivory Coast football star.
In a forthcoming book Serena Williams’ father, Richard, recalls the racist taunts they endured at an Indian Wells tennis tournament a decade ago.
Tiger Woods was at the receiving end from fellow golfers Fuzzy Zoeller in 1997 and Sergio Garcia in 2013.
There’s no place for such incidents in sports.
In the bigger picture, if any form of racial discrimination is tolerated, we have major worries to tackle. How we deal with that can have implications for the stability of civil societies on and off the field of play.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports at [email protected]