From Adam Jones being taunted with racial slurs in Boston to monkey chants directed at an African soccer player in Italy, it’s clear that racism in sports remains a worldwide scourge.
But we can’t rely on athletes or team owners or corporate sponsors to stamp out this appalling cancer.
For ignorance to be defeated, everyone must speak up.
If you’re sitting in the stands and hear a racial epithet, find the nearest usher. Point out the offender. Make it clear that you won’t stand for that kind of language.
That’s what happened at Fenway Park, one night after Jones came forward .
Calvin Hennick, a Boston resident bringing his son to his first Red Sox game as a present for his sixth birthday, heard a nearby fan use a racist slur when referring to the national anthem singer.
Hennick summoned security. The other fan was ejected and permanently banned from returning to Fenway Park. Though it’s not clear how such a penalty will actually be enforced, it was an encouraging sign that some fans, at least, aren’t going to put up with hateful language.
“I’m glad the Sox are encouraging fans to come forward,” Hennick said. “I was just pleased that they took it really seriously.”
This needs to be norm, not an anomaly.
While Hennick, who is white and has a biracial son, said he might have spoken out anyway, we’ll never really know if the uproar over Jones’ treatment inspired him to take a stand.
What we do know: There were plenty of other fans who surely heard what was going on and let it slide, just as there were surely those who did nothing when they heard the racist garbage directed at the Baltimore outfielder the previous night.
Of course, it’s more comfortable to sit on the sideline than to get involved.
How many of us — particularly if we’re white — have chosen to say nothing when family or friends spewed a racially derogatory comment, wrongly assuming that we share their ugly view of the world since we have same skin color?
We decide to just put up with it, assuring ourselves there’s nothing we can do change a bigot’s mind, patting ourselves on the back for not being so intolerant.
I’ll raise my hand.
Guilty as charged.
And that’s all it takes for ignorance to flourish.
Next thing you know, you’re at a ballgame, sitting right next to a fan who vocalizes their disdain for an athlete because of their race. Or religion. Or sexual orientation. If you remained silent at home, chances are you’re not going to get involved in a stadium packed with thousands of strangers.
You sit that one out, too.
And ignorance wins again.
“It’s the reality of the world that we live” in, said Red Sox President Sam Kennedy. “Hopefully,” he added, referring to Hennick’s bold stance, “this is a step forward.”
We’ve still got so far to go.
After Jones revealed what he’d been through, former Red Sox pitcher and current toxic blowhard Curt Schilling questioned whether the episode actually happened.
Demonstrating that he knows even less about racial intolerance than he knew about starting a video game company , Schilling said on his webcast, “I don’t believe the story, given the world we live in.”
Apparently, he lives in a world I’m not familiar with.
Go on, No. 38.
“I don’t believe it, for this reason: Everybody is starving and hungry to sit in front of a camera and talk and be social justice warriors. And if a fan yelled loud enough in center field for Adam Jones to hear the N-word, I guarantee you we would’ve heard and seen fans around on CNN on MSNBC, they would’ve found multiple fans to talk about what a racist piece of junk Boston is.”
So, in the World According to Curt, Jones made up a story about racial slurs for the fame. That makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider how Colin Kaepernick’s career took off after he took a knee to protest police brutality and a flawed justice system.
Oh, what’s that? Kaepernick is still unemployed? Well, how can that be? He had a better rating that 15 other starting quarterbacks last season.
We’ll have to check with Schilling on that one and get back you.
Meanwhile, Italian soccer authorities showed about as much sensitivity as Bull Connor after Ghanaian player Sulley Muntari was subjected to racial abuse that was evident for everyone to hear during a Serie A game on the island of Sardinia last weekend.
Instead of stopping the game and warning the fans at Cagliari to stop, the referee ejected Muntari from the game for his complaints. Compounding that horrendous decision, the league tacked on an additional one-game suspension for the player — a decision that was overturned on Friday, but only after protests from around the world .
Just as troubling, Cagliari escaped punishment because Serie A’s disciplinary body said only 10 fans were to blame.
Well, one racist fan is too many.
It’s time to do the right thing.
Let’s start with that person in the mirror.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberryap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .