Against racism – sympathy for player protests: “say what you think”

Berlin (dpa) – There is great sympathy for the player protests in the Bundesliga after the violent death of African American George Floyd in the USA.

The tendency to punish Schalke Weston McKennie, Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi or others for their statements against racism is rather low – even if the professionals have violated statutes. “I have no doubt that the control committee will treat the issue with prudence and judgment,” said Hans E. Lorenz, chairman of the sports court of the German Football Association, the German Press Agency.

The president of the World Football Association would not punish the protesting Bundesliga professionals. “To avoid doubt: In a FIFA competition, the recent demonstrations by players in the Bundesliga would deserve applause and not punishment,” said Gianni Infantino in a statement on Tuesday evening. “We all have to say no to racism and all forms of discrimination. We all have to say no to violence. All forms of violence.”

The rules of the DFB state that players may not show underwear with “political, religious or personal slogans”. “If I have to face the consequences to express my opinion, express my feelings, stand up for what I believe in – then I have to do it,” said 21-year-old Schalke McKennie for Forbes.

The American had worn an armband with “Justice for George” in the game against Werder Bremen. Sancho and Hakimi had T-shirts shown under their BVB jerseys labeled “Justice for George Floyd”. Gladbach’s Marcus Thuram symbolically fell to his knees. And Cologne’s Anthony Modeste also joined the protests in the 2: 4 against RB Leipzig with a gesture.

There was praise for the actions from the highest level. “I have a lot of respect for players who have an attitude and show their solidarity, I wish such mature players, I’m proud of them,” said DFB President Fritz Keller. “Morally, I can absolutely understand the actions last weekend. What happened in the United States cannot leave anyone indifferent.”

It is therefore very unlikely that McKennie and the other players will face penalties. Especially since the DFB and FIFA itself repeatedly launch campaigns against racism and punishment would be in conflict.

On Tuesday, numerous athletes from Germany took part in a solidarity campaign and published a completely black picture on Instagram. Among other things, the current or former national soccer players Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Leroy Sané, Mario Götze, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus supported the “#BlackOutTuesday”. The action, which comes from the US music industry, is intended to draw attention to the injustice and to encourage people not to produce content for a day, but to deal with the processes.

But where should the line be drawn when it comes to political statements by athletes in general? There is broad consensus in George Floyd’s case. But what happens when a soccer player uses gestures or lettering to express himself or herself against the oppressive apparatus in China or against the Turkish Erdogan regime’s actions against politically different thinkers?

The lines are flowing. After the military greeting from Turkish national team in the European Championship qualification, the European Football Union warned UEFA 16 players and imposed a fine of 50,000 euros on the Turkish association. The players expressed their support for the Turkish armed forces, which launched a military offensive against the Kurdish militia YPG in northern Syria. The use was sharply criticized internationally.

Swiss international Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri fueled the mood in the 2018 World Cup match against Serbia with a gesture that symbolized the Albanian double-headed eagle. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a state with its 90 percent Albanian majority. FIFA fined the players and the association.

While discussions in sports associations about dealing with political statements may only begin, protests continue after Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Not only on the streets in US metropolises, but also in sports.

The chairman of the English anti-racism initiative “Kick it Out”, Sanjay Bhandari, urged every professional footballer in the Premier League to send a clear signal against racism. For this purpose, all players should get on their knees for the planned restart of the league on June 17. “Not just the black players. The white players too – all of them,” he told the Guardian. The professionals of the English league leaders FC Liverpool and Chelsea FC have already joined the protests with a symbolic knee in training. “Enough is enough,” wrote Chelsea’s German international Antonio Rüdiger for a photo that shows his team’s action. “We are all PEOPLE. Together we are stronger.”

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