Racism in sport has a long and dirty past. Major sporting events such as the 1936 Olympic Games and the 1934 World Cup, hosted by Germany and Italy respectively, were both essentially hijacked by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in order to promote their fascist and racist ideologies. It is well-known that Hitler did not allow Jewish athletes to compete for Germany, regardless of ability, but racism and discrimination has plagued a number of sports all over the world for many years.
Upon his return to the U.S, Jesse Owens told the press, "Hitler didn't snub me - it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." It took until 1947 for Jackie Robinson to break the color line in baseball, playing in the NBL when black players had formally been restricted to the so-called 'Negro Leagues'. Association football has been dragged through the mud due to its problems with racism, which still persist to this day, particularly in Eastern Europe and Russia.
In truth, most sports have had struggles over racist issues, and huge strides have been made in all sports to rectify such acts of discrimination and racial abuse. There is still work to be done, but generally speaking, the world of sport is far more accepting, tolerant and diverse than ever before. This has not stopped some sports personalities from exposing their bigoted beliefs though. Here are 10 racist comments made by sports personalities:
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16 Shaquille O'Neal
NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal landed himself in hot water back in 2003 when newcomer center Yao Ming arrived on the NBA scene. Shaq told a reporter, "you tell Yao Ming, ching chong yang, wah, ah so." O'Neal faced no disciplinary action but was widely criticized for his mocking of Chinese people. While O'Neal claimed it was just locker room humor, meant with no harm, some took more serious offence. Ming himself took it with grace, joking in reply to O'Neal that, "Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little."
15 Floyd Mayweather
Mayweather/Pacquiao is still fresh in our minds, but what Floyd Mayweather said a while ago about Pacquiao showed incredible ignorance by the champ.
“As soon as we come off vacation, we're going to cook that little yellow chump. We ain't worried about that. So they ain't gotta worry about me fighting the midget. Once I kick the midget ass, I don't want you all to jump on my d***...So you all better get on the bandwagon now... Once I stomp the midget, I'll make that mother f****** make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice."
Stay classy, Mayweather.
14 Jason Whitlock
Jason Whitlock has forever been surrounded by controversy and he found it again when Linsanity was in full swing. After a great game by Jeremy Lin for the New York Knicks, Whitlock called out Lin's manhood, playing off an old Asian stereotype tweeting: "Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight."
While this one comes off as more childish than anything, it was ignorant and distasteful nonetheless.
13 Donald Sterling
Donald Sterling's comments made to his girlfriend resulted in him being banned from the NBA for life and a fine of several million dollars. The former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was recorded as saying to his girlfriend, after having posted an Instagram photo with Magic Johnson, "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people", and, "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want" but "the little I ask you is ... not to bring them to my games."
In a league where 80% of the players are African American, there was no room for a man like Sterling in the NBA and him being banned has made the NBA a better place.
12 Fuzzy Zoeller
Fuzzy Zoeller played into every stereotype about golf by making dismissive, racist remarks regarding an up and coming Tiger Woods in 1997. Zoeller was clearly not too pleased with someone of Tiger taking over what was predominantly a white man's game. After a bad outing at the 1997 Masters, Zoeller made these comments:
"You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it? Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve."
Zoeller lost sponsors and had to issue a public apology for the remarks.
10 Riley Cooper
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was videoed using the n-word in July 2013. Upon being denied access backstage at a Kenny Chesney concert, Cooper declared "I will fight every n****** here," a comment he directed at the show's bouncers. The 27-year-old was handed an undisclosed fine by the Eagles but faced no ban. Following the incident, he spoke out in support of penalties for racial slurs, claiming "I think it's a good rule." Cooper signed a new deal with the Eagles last year, valued at $25 million over the next five years, and one suspects the fine did not hit him too hard.
9 John Rocker
Few athletes have caused such a firestorm of controversy as John Rocker. The former MLB pitcher, who turned out for the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Long Island Ducks first caused a stir in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 1999. In an extraordinary display of prejudice and bigotry, Rocker managed to cover racism and homophobia in one fell swoop.
Rocker likened New York to Beirut, describing his numerous dislikes of the city, before reaching the ethnic section of his hate-filled bile, "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners," later adding, "how the hell did they get in this country?". Rocker also described his teammate Randall Simon as a "fat monkey" and in 2013, Rocker made the outlandish claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if there weren't gun laws in Germany at the time.
8 Jimmy Snyder
Jimmy Snyder, affectionately known as 'Jimmy The Greek' was a prominent American sports commentator, working for the CBS show 'The NFL Today' for 12 years. A Las Vegas bookmaker, Snyder allegedly bet $10,000 on Harry Truman to win the 1948 election, with odds of 17/1. Snyder's work as a commentator came to a crashing end in 1988, when he was dismissed for making racist remarks.
Snyder claimed that black athletes are naturally superior due to the days of the slave trade. Ending his astonishing claims by saying, "the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid." Snyder was sacked for the comments and spoke of his regret over making them, remarking, "What a foolish thing to say." After his dismissal Snyder had a series of health problems, which he believed were brought on by his sacking, and he died of a heart attack in 1996.
7 Fritz Korbach
Fritz Korback was a failed Dutch footballer, who had only a brief career, and experienced far more success as a manager, where he was prolific in the Netherlands, managing 15 different clubs, mostly in Holland, before his death in 2011 at the age of 66. In 1991, while managing Eredivise side SC Heerenveen, Korbach disgraced himself when he described Ajax winger Bryan Roy as a "a putrid little negro" and Brazil legend Romario as "that coffee bean of PSV". Korbach claimed that the terms were just "football language." The world of football disagreed, Korbach was disgraced and banned for one game.
6 Kelly Tilghman
Golf broadcaster and announcer Kelly Tilghman, who works primarily for The Golf Channel caused an outrage in 2008 when in conversation with Nick Faldo on live TV. Faldo joked that younger players should "gang-up" on Tiger Woods, to which Tilghman replied by saying, "Lynch him in a back alley". Tilghman's outrageous comments unsurprisingly did not go unnoticed, and although Woods's agent said they felt she meant no harm, black rights figures such as Al Sharpton demanded her firing, describing her comments as an "insult to all blacks." She was briefly suspended by the channel but faced no sterner punishment for her distasteful comment.
5 Paolo Berlusconi
We are used to hearing the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi making stupid and obscene comments, but his brother Paolo proved in 2013 that he was capable of doing so as well. AC Milan's vice-president, Paolo Berlusconi described Italy's first ever black player and current Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli as, "The family's little n******". Berlusconi seemed surprised that his comments caused such a stir and soon after they were made he talked to Balotelli in order to ensure there was no hurt feelings, claiming that he used the term "affectionately". Balotelli was said to be satisfied with Berlusconi's reasoning.
4 Hall W. Thompson
Hall W. Thompson developed and established the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1977. The course held a number of major tournaments and in the weeks preceding another, the 1990 PGA Championship, Thompson was interviewed on the club's admission policies by a reporter. In defense of their admission policies, Thompson pointed out that they allowed both Jewish and female players, before adding, "we don't discriminate in every other area except blacks."
Whilst other quotes on this list have have contained abhorrent racial slurs and the like, it is somehow Thompson's that is perhaps the most telling and repellent of the lot. The nonchalance with which he points out their discrimination, clearly without any feeling that what he is saying would be deemed absurd or disgusting. A number of sponsors, including Honda, Lincoln and Toyota, pulled out of the PGA Championship as a result of comments, costing the tournament over $2 million. Protests were held and the club was eventually forced to accept black players, and Sports Illustrated once named Thompson as Alabama's second-most-effective catalyst for change in race relations, after Rosa Parks.
3 Voula Papachristou
Since the economic crash, Greece, like a few other European nations, has seen a sharp rise in fascist and far-right political ideologies. In Greece, the essentially neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have gained some prominence, achieving 7% of the popular vote and securing 21 seats in the Hellenic Parliament. It was also in 2012, days before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, that Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banned from the games for a post she made on social media.
Papachristou's tweet was translated as having said, "With so many Africans in Greece...the West Nile mosquitoes will at least eat homemade food!!!". The tweet was sandwiched between re-tweets of tweets by Ilias Kasidiaris, a member of parliament and member of the Golden Dawn Party who famously assaulted a woman on live TV and is a holocaust denier. Her tweet was in reference to the recent outbreak of the West Nile virus which had spread to Greece. Despite a speedy apology, the Olympic committee deemed the offence too great and banned her from competing at the games.
2 Ron Atkinson
Ron Atkinson, commonly referred to as simply 'Big Ron', was one of the most beloved figures in the English game until his racist outburst. Firstly, as a manager, where he endeared himself to supporters, most notably as the manager of West Brom, Manchester United and Aston Villa. After management, Atkinson moved into the media, where he rose to fame for his memorable and unique sayings which became known as 'Ronisms' and 'Ronglish', many of which are still used when describing the game to this day.
Atkinson's commentating career came crashing down in 2004 though, when a microphone gaffe meant Atkinson was unaware his words would be heard by the public. Although transmission on ITV in the UK had stopped, his comments were still live throughout the Middle East, where listeners heard 'Big Ron' state, in regards to Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly, "he is what is known in some schools as a f***n lazy, thick n****". The comments soon spread back to the UK, where Atkinson was forced to part ways with both his employers, ITV and the Guardian. Some defended Atkinson, and he claims he is not a racist, but he has struggled to break back into football, TV or radio since his outrageous comments were unwittingly broadcast.
1 Marge Schott
Where do you start with Marge Schott? Her racism and bigotry always seemed to be on full display, with those working under her alleging even more racist comments than we heard from our view. In 1992, a former marketing director for the Cincinnati Reds, Charles Levy said that the team president had referred to players Eric Davis and Dave Parker as her "million dollar n*****".
Tim Sabo, another former employee, claimed he was fired in 1991 due to his testifying against Schott in a lawsuit brought against her because he opposed her unwritten policy of not hiring blacks.
Levy, who is Jewish, also claimed that Schott kept a Nazi swastika armband in her home. Schott actually stated that Hitler was good for Germany for a while, "but he went too far." All in all, a disgusting bigot.
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