European soccer executives and players call for resolve to fight against racism that is on the rise in stadiums across the continent. The NBA's lifetime ban for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling won swift support in Europe but also produced calls for soccer to show similar resolve against racism.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, via his spokesman, both voiced approval on Wednesday. Blatter tweeted: "Sport says no to racism. I fully support @NBA's decision to ban @LAClippers owner for life after his racist words."
Patrick Vieira, a 1998 World Cup winner with France, also tweeted: "Well done to @NBA, another organisation dealing with racism in exactly the right way. I say again – zero tolerance."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants Sterling to sell as part of a series of sanctions brought against the league's longest-tenured owner in response to racist comments in a recorded conversation. Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million, and said he will press the other team owners to support his desire to make Sterling sell.
For some in Europe, the NBA's resolve was in stark contrast to soccer leader's failure to eradicate racism that has dogged stadiums and marred matches for decades. Just last weekend, a Villarreal season-ticket holder racially taunted Barcelona defender Dani Alves by throwing a banana at him.
Retired British NBA player John Amaechi noted that players, executives and owners in the American league appeared united in their rejection of Sterling. "If they can do that to respond to a hateful private utterance, why the hell can't football do that to respond to repeated instances of hate-mongering?" Amaechi said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
"It's time that we started looking at some of the owners within other parts of sport," outside the NBA, he said. "They're exactly the type of plantation mentality people who don't mind having black people working for them … But God forbid that they want to come up to the big house."
Amaechi said he doesn't expect the NBA's exemplary punishment of Sterling will jolt soccer into meaningful change. And Blatter's tweet of support for the NBA was "not enough," he added. "If there was a poster-person for the words 'impotence' and 'apathy,' it would have his face on it," Amaechi said.
"You know what they're going to do? They're going to produce another pretty poster with platitudes plastered all over it. They're going to produce another campaign that has a black player stood next to a white player," he said. "Nothing substantive."
FIFA and UEFA, the European authority, have toughened their sanctions for discrimination in the past year and prosecuted cases more quickly.
A turning point in awareness of widespread problems with offensive abuse at matches came in January 2013 when Kevin-Prince Boateng, then playing for AC Milan, led teammates walking off the field to protest racist insults during an exhibition against a fourth-tier Italian side.
FIFA and UEFA have ordered national and club teams to play matches in empty or partly closed stadiums as punishment for racial abuse incidents, but no World Cup or Champions League team has yet had points deducted or forfeited a match.
Among the most severe judgments, FIFA has banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches – including the 2014 World Cup – for leading fans in chanting a Nazi-era nationalist slogan after a playoff victory against Iceland last November. Simunic has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.