Racial Bias in U.S. Soccer Culture?

Written by: Peter Alegi

Primary Source:  Football is Coming Home, January 26, 2017

Is there an implicit racial bias in Major League Soccer and other U.S. leagues?

A piercing SB Nation story this week grappled with the implications of a recent study‘s disturbing findings “that black players are 14 percent more likely to be called for cautions than their non-black counterparts.” The study by Paste magazine also found that “black players are [. . .] more than twice as likely to receive red card ejections.”

In the article, I share my thoughts on this important issue with the SB Nation reporter, Tyler Tynes. I point out that “while finding empirical data is difficult, there’s plenty of soft and hard discrimination to believe that bias can take hold in refereeing. American soccer is not excused.” In fact, officiating bias can be understood as part of a broader pattern of racism in soccer, in the U.S. and internationally, one characterized by the practice of “stacking,” the presence of very few black coaches on the sidelines, and multiple forms of racist fan behavior.

“It can’t be denied,” I say in the piece. “Racism in soccer, in Europe certainly, is very real. And, regrettably, despite all the progress that’s been made in terms of messaging and tolerance in local football culture, it’s still there. And everybody knows it.”

But don’t take my word for it, click here to read the full story.

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Peter Alegi
Peter Alegi is Professor of History at Michigan State University. He is the author of Laduma! Soccer, Politics, and Society in South Africa (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2004) and African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game (Ohio University Press, 2010). With Peter Limb, Alegi hosts the “Africa Past and Present” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @futbolprof.