The subject matter of this article that I never really want to discuss, but is still very much a problem within sport, is the bigotry in sports. In the competitive leagues and even in our country, it is something that needs to be analysed and brought to discussion until we live in a timeline where it no longer exists.
People don’t like talking about it and it makes sense, no one wants to constantly hear about the bad in something that they enjoy. But like the way that people say that politics shouldn’t be in sport, it is, and it must be discussed as these actions and non-actions can very much reflect the way a society is, just like in art. It needs to be analysed and critiqued so it can improve and better itself.
So begrudgingly, we must delve in.
The event that has unfortunately inspired this article was the recent incident in the AFLW. In a match between Essendon and Carlton where Carlton player Vaomua Laloifi, was racially abused by an Essendon supporter during the second quarter, reducing Laloifi to tears.
The punishment for these actions is a lifetime ban from the sport, which would be a considerate deterrent from doing it, but throughout the 2023 AFL and AFLW season, 17 lifetime bans were issues to fans due to racism.
And this isn’t the only place this is happening. In the NRL this year, a Sydney Roosters fan who attended the Penrith Panthers vs South Sydney Rabbitohs game racially abused indigenous player Latrell Mitchell.
A few Melbourne Victory fans were banned from making homophobic remarks to Adelaide United player Joshua Cavallo, who is the first openly gay current player in the A-League. These incidents have occurred even at the point of grassroots sports that I have witnessed personally.
And this is just in person, from what I’ve personally witnessed on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram when it comes to bigotry, it’s almost like the algorithms feed them and help aid their vitriol. A major example of this type of abuse would be in the aftermath of the 2021 European Football Championship Final.
England would lose to Italy in penalty shootout with three players missing for England, Marcus Rashford, Jaiden Sancho and Bukayo Saka. All three being people of colour. The result would see thousands of messages of hate and abuse being sent their way through comments and direct messages. With a form of anonymity, they acted worse than they could be in public.
We like to think that we live in a time where we have progressed enough so that issues like bigotry would be minimised to a tiny state. And I think that yes, we have moved a considerate amount forward from the past, but we very much still have a lot of work to do.
This article is not raising the idea that most people that watch sport in this country are bigoted. It’s ridiculous to make major assumptions like that on the account on a handful of incidents.
However, these incidents do reflect that the problems are still here and occasionally rears its ugly head to the public in the big competitions, which also reflect that somewhere it is happening down the leagues into grassroots sport.
And with how social media has been a potential breeding ground for this type of abuse, a scary reality could potentially set in of this issue becoming worse before it gets any better. The methods to prevent it from an in-person standpoint is already at the limit at what you can do without bringing in the police, but social media can circumvent the possibility of a person’s identity being discovered.
Regulation needs to come in to prevent this increase. If it doesn’t, the work of progress will start heading backwards into dark times.