Stand Up. Speak Up.

17 May

In the video posted earlier, Samuel Eto’o comments:

“I think that football is a mirror of society. If we experience this in football, it means our society is rotten. That means that we’re in a dangerous situation. And that’s what we need to be fighting against. I am treated first and foremost as a footballer, as Samuel Eto’o. But away from the cameras a black man is suffering from racism and nobody cares. That’s the problem.”

Eto’o goes on to say that the media has a crucial role to play in combating the ignorance that breeds racism in society. The Stand Up Speak Up campaign by Nike is an example of just that. It is also an example of what a player subjected to racial intolerance is capable of. Thierry Henry’s incident with Aragonés led to the creation of the campaign in 2005. Henry refused to just sit back and wait for the governing bodies to sort out a punishment for Aragonés and decided to focus on the prevention and education side of things. He brought together a number of famous black footballers who play in European leagues and teamed up with Nike to form the Stand Up Speak Up campaign. The campaign seeks to address the conditions which led Eto’o to state that “our society is rotten” and ran the commercial below.

The campaign message is that the fans screaming racist chants are in the minority and that the majority of fans must take action and “drown out the racists”. I believe this is a well thought out message because it addresses the fact that those fans in the majority are enablers when they sit back and allow their fellow fans to spew racist slurs. It places personal responsibility on every fan to take action in the fight against racism and equates silence with support for intolerance.

The symbol of the campaign was the black & white interlocking wristband. The bands were available during the beginning of 2005 for a donation of at least 2 Euros through Nike’s European outlets and other sports retailers. All of the bands quickly sold out and raised 6 million Euros for the campaign.  The money raised went to support European anti-racism projects and initiatives, administered by the King Baudouin Foundation.

The campaign ended in 2009 and to mark the end of the project, a conference was held in June at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium for representatives of the funded projects from across Europe. This enabled an inspiring exchange of ideas and experiences to take place and delegates went away determined to continue their efforts to use the unifying potential of sport to overcome racism and discrimination.

It is difficult to say whether or not the campaign has been effective but it is certainly a step in the right direction. There should be a much greater emphasis placed on prevention and education to attempt to get at the core issues of racism in each country. Football mirrors society and what manifests itself on the field or in the stands is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of racial tensions in those places.



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