Donald Sterling: Fifa must learn from NBA's tough stance on racism

Adam Silver has only been in his job since February but already he has taken decisive action on racism

“There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct. The one affected by this should say ‘this is a game’ and shake hands.”: So said Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa, in 2011 on the day the Football Association charged Luis Suarez with racially abusing Patrice Evra.

Yesterday Blatter, still immovable on top of football’s governing body, lauded the decisive action taken by the NBA against Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, over racist comments he made in a recording leaked to the media.

Michel Platini also praised the severe penalties imposed on Sterling by Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner. Silver has only been in his post since February and this was his first significant challenge. Blatter has been in his position since 1998. Platini has overseen European football as president of Uefa since 2007.

Uefa banned Nicklas Bendtner and fined him for wearing sponsored underwear during Euro 2012. The fine was larger than those imposed on the Russian and Croatian federations for their fans racially abusing opponents during the tournament. It was five times the amount imposed on Spain for their supporters racially abusing Mario Balotelli.

Spain crops up time and again. Barcelona’s Dani Alves has played there for 11 years and, as he pointed out after his latest instance of abuse at Villarreal on Sunday, it is an issue that is not going away. That appears to be the hope of some in football – that one day it will just go away.

The head of the Spanish FA, Angel Maria Villar Llona, has been in situ since 1988. It is a decade since Luis Aragones’ “black shit” description of Thierry Henry was greeted with an indifferent shrug. In the last two seasons Barcelona fans have racially abused Real Madrid players and Madrid fans have racially abused Barça players. And all to background assertions from Fifa and Uefa of “zero tolerance”.

Uefa last season punished three clubs with stadium closures for racist chanting, all in the lesser leagues of eastern Europe. Lazio were the biggest club sanctioned and on appeal had a full stadium closure reduced to a partial one. As in Spain, racist abuse continues in Italy – Balotelli and his Milan team-mates suffered it at Roma last season.

Britain has its problems, although racist abuse within grounds has become comparatively rare. The FA’s leadership on the issue has been doubted by players and it is leadership athletes crave. There have been admiring tweets about Silver – Sterling’s fine of nearly £1.5m is for once in a disciplinary process truly eye-watering, let alone the life ban and pressure to get out of the sport. The message is clear: there is no place for your sort in our game.

NBA players had a part in threatening action but Silver’s response was swift and resolute – Kevin-Prince Boateng’s walk-off last year jolted Fifa into introducing stiffer penalties. Fifa did ban Croatia’s Josip Simunic for 10 games for making fascist salutes but no football team has had points stripped or been expelled from competition. No line in the sand has been drawn.

With its franchise system there is greater central control in US top-tier basketball, as in much of US sport, but there is still plenty to admire, not only in basketball but also American football. The Rooney Rule increased the number of black coaches and at no cost to the sport’s integrity or the success of the teams who chose them. It works and is needed here. The contrast this week between football’s banana-eating campaign – striking but to what end? – and the punishment of Sterling – striking and to an abrupt end – is acute.

There are those in the US who believe the NBA should have stood up to Sterling long ago but Silver has certainly done so now. What football would give for such decisive leadership from just one of its pontificating presidents.

Life and Style
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine