Brazil’s Superior Court of Superior Court of Sporting Justice kicked Gremio out the Brazilian Cup on Wednesday after some of their fans racially abused Aranha (pictured below), the goalkeeper with rival club Santos.
It was the heaviest penalty ever imposed on a Brazilian football team for racist acts and it was about time. (See more in my Reuters story here.)
It’s interesting to hear the reaction from fans, many of whom believe the club should not be punished for the crass acts of a few racist idiots. The general feeling seems to be that the ban is either unfair or unnecessary.
Gremio fans are not racist. The club has banned the offending fans so it shouldn’t be punished again. The club shouldn’t be punished for something it can’t control. Why is the club punished when fans call players monkeys but not when fans call players gay/fat/ugly? The Court only kicked Gremio out the competition because they were 2-0 down from the first leg and wouldn’t have qualified anyway.
These are some of the things I’ve been told over the last 24 hours.
But they miss the point.
The simple truth is that if you want to end racism you have to take serious action and you must make fans realise their actions have consequences. Until now, all the punishments have been too weak. Fines, bans, etc. They haven’t worked.
Not only does kicking Gremio out the tournament embarrass the club, it has two key side effects. One is that other teams can see the Court is serious about attacking the problem. Racist fans will think twice about spouting abuse.
Just as importantly, it can empower “good” fans. The next time someone shouts “Monkey” at a football match there’s every chance that other fans will shout them down, well aware that if they’re caught their team will lose points or be disqualified.
The important thing now is that the Court imposes similarly heavy penalties – including disqualification if necessary – on teams whose fans are found guilty or racism.
The Court should be applauded for its action. Consistency now is what matters.