Racism In Sports


J. Spells, Staff Writer

During a lacrosse game last week, I was called the N-word by a member of the opposing team. Racial abuse has been in sports for as long as sports have existed. Sports teams and governing bodies have become more active against racial abuse, but it is still a prominent problem. In this article, I will recount some notable racial abuse at all levels of various sports.


Little League:

In the Lower Island Soccer Association in Vancouver, BC, a spectator hurled a racist attack at a 13 year old boy.  The abuse of the child was caught on a live stream of the event. There is no evidence any adults intervened at the time of the attack. This illustrates how these events can become normalized and how this could result in the problem growing even further. After the incident, players, coaches, and members of the association were called into a meeting during which they received even more reports of racial abuse in the LISA. This problem is being addressed with the placing of signs around the field as well as with recordings of games to try and discourage this behavior and ensure fair play and respect by all parties during games.



One of the most prominent recent racial abuse stories in college sports involves a Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson and BYU fans, Richardson reported that   every time she would go back to serve she would be called a racial slur by a BYU fan. Richardson spoke on the events of the match later stating, “This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics and sadly it likely will not be the last time…”However, each time it happens we as student-athletes, coaches, fans, and administrators have a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways.” BYU banned the fan from all sporting events the next day and said they do not tolerate this behavior but later reported they found no evidence to support Richardson’s allegations. Duke University released a statement giving Richardson the school’s full support and commitment to diversity.



Soccer has a large racial abuse problem in Europe, and this has become even more obvious in countries like Spain and Italy where black players must be perfect to avoid being abused by their own fans. Sadly, even when they perform perfectly for their own team, they are abused by the opposing fans for their successes. A recent case of this is in Spain involving Real Madrid player Vinicius Jr. who was hanged in effigy from a bridge by fans of rival team Atletico Madrid before their game on January 26th. Real Madrid released a statement condemning the racism toward their player but the slurs and abuse came in hot during their game. However, Vini overcame the racist attacks, scored the sealing goal, and danced in front of the Atletico Madrid fans. 


High School:

I have saved high school for last because it is the environment in which I play and was verbally assaulted. As I stated in my opening, racial abuse is not new in sports. However, racist attacks have intensified as minorities have had increasing representation in sports that were traditionally out of reach due to financial or regional hurdles. The irony of lacrosse is that it is a sport created by Native Americans but is now played by fewer than 1% at the college level. 

In addition to my experience, I have interviewed players from other varsity lacrosse teams in the area. Another varsity player in the area was told during a game that his Black sister needs to “go back to Africa” and was the victim of other vulgar sexual comments directed at his sister. Yet another player reported to me that reported members of an opposing team hurled racial abuse at him, calling him an f-ing monkey throughout the entire game.

This all demonstrates how racial abuse is a serious, ongoing problem at every level of sport and is a problem that needs to be addressed and stopped immediately. I am grateful that I have teammates, coaches, and an Athletic Director who have stood up for me and are addressing the incident that occurred during our game last week. I do not know whether the player who called me the N-word will admit to what he did, since most racists are also cowards. I think that any form of racial abuse should result in an immediate suspension of the player and possible expulsion from the team and a suspension and mandatory training for any coaching staff member who is aware of this behavior but fails to stop it. Individuals should not be able to return to the field until they make a formal apology and can demonstrate a willingness to move forward from a place of respect for the rights and dignity of others.