KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- FIFA has varied its traditional stance in response to reaction in the world of sport to the turbulence in the United States over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody in the United States.
Up until now the world football federation had always set its face against any manifestation of political or social protest, whether by individual players or fans.
Five players in the German Bundesliga at the weekend undertook gestures of protest. These included Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi, who displayed undershirts bearing the message ‘Justice for George Floyd’.
Another protester was Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram, whose father Lilian transitioned from World Cup winner with France to anti-racism campaigner.
Thuram Jnr ‘took a knee’ after the style of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
American midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband over his Schalke jersey with the handwritten message “Justice for George.”
FIFA responded not by insisting that federations and leagues observe the letter of the disciplinary law but by asking them to use “common sense” with players who show messages of protest over the death of Floyd.
Formal regulations bar players from displaying any “political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on their kit.
Since 2014, this ban has included undershirts – a response to players lifting up their shirts to display a message after scoring a goal.
Sancho was shown a yellow card after removing his shirt but the DFB said it was not due to his message but because he broke the rules on removing shirts.
In a statement on Tuesday, FIFA said it “fully understands the depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many footballers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case”.
It added that applying the laws of the game was the responsibility of competition organisers, such as domestic leagues, who FIFA said “should use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events”.
A statement added: “FIFA had repeatedly expressed itself to be resolutely against racism and discrimination of any kind. FIFA itself has promoted many anti-racism campaigns which frequently carry the anti-racism message at matches organised under its own auspices.”
To emphasise the point president Gianni Infantino said: “For the avoidance of doubt, in a FIFA competition the recent demonstrations of players in Bundesliga matches would deserve an applause and not a punishment.”
His sentiments were echoed by Aleksander Ceferin, head of European governing body UEFA. Ceferin said: “Football is a sport which encourages tolerance, inclusion and justice. These are the same values being espoused by those showing solidarity to George Floyd.”
The message was ignored, however, in Hungary where the national federation issued a written reprimand to Ferencvaros’ Tokmac Nguen, who showed his undershirt with the words ‘Justice for George Floyd’, after scoring in a 1-1 draw with Puskas Akademia on Sunday.
Nguen was born in a refugee camp in Kenya to parents from South Sudan and grew up in Norway. The federation’s disciplinary committee cautioned that any repeat would prompt “actual penalties.”
Other examples of protest have included players from Liverpool and Newcastle staging pictures of them all taking a knee.
Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy has urged cricket’s global governing body and its member nations to speak out against social injustice while England and Wales Cricket Board tweeted a photo of wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, spinner Adil Rashid and their Barbados-born quick Jofra Archer with the message: “We stand for diversity, We stand against racism.”
Formula One drivers followed Lewis Hamilton’s lead on Monday after he criticised those in what he called the “white dominated sport” for failing to speak out about Floyd’s death.
Stop racism. Stop violence
FIFA fully understands the depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many footballers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case.
FIFA had repeatedly expressed itself to be resolutely against racism and discrimination of any kind and recently strengthened its own disciplinary rules with a view to helping to eradicate such behaviour.
FIFA itself has promoted many anti-racism campaigns which frequently carry the anti-racism message at matches organised under its own auspices.
The application of the Laws of the Game approved by the IFAB is left for the competitions organisers which should use common sense and have in consideration the context surrounding the events.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino adds: “For the avoidance of doubt, in a FIFA competition the recent demonstrations of players in Bundesliga matches would deserve an applause and not a punishment.
“We all must say no to racism and any form of discrimination.”
“We all must say no to violence. Any form of violence.”
#stopracism #stopdiscrimination #stopviolence