Racism deserves a red card; it doesn’t deserve a law suit.
American defender Oguchi Onyewu is suing Anderlecht’s Jelle van Damme for alleged racist remarks during a Belgian league playoff game last week. I understand why Onyewu wants to brings attention to racism in soccer I believe it is a mistake to do so by suing.
Belgium is one of the most interesting and complex countries in the world. With the Flemish living in the North and the french speakers in the South, Belgium is in many ways (language, culture, education) two separate countries. I’m not an expert on the intricacies of Belgian politics and law (that’s a huge understatement), but tensions between the two groups have led to speech laws that are almost unheard of in Western countries.
As terrible as racist remarks are, they shouldn’t be against the law. Censorship kills debate, which is a central pillar of democracy. In the United States, the KKK is allowed to hold a public protest and people that hold opposite views are allowed to protest them. Debate, even with extremists, strengthens countries.
Here is a propaganda video from a Flemish political party, Vlaams Belang. It’s worth watching, but it’s also important to know Vlaams Belang wants Flanders to become an independent state and is, generally, anti-immigration.
You can see that politcal freedom and freedom of speech is a little bit different in Belgium than it is in other Western countries. But what does this have to do with Oguchi Onyewu?
Onyewu is taking advantage of Belgium’s political problems by suing for something that was said to him in a soccer game. Onyewu wouldn’t be able to do this in the United States and he shouldn’t do it in Belgium
Racism is a real problem in Belgium, but cases like this will only drive racism underground. Racists should be encouraged to speak up and explain their views and why they believe what they do. Then a debate can take place and people can decide who they agree and disagree with. That’s what ends racism; not suing.
Onyewu is right to remind people the racism is soccer is still a serious problem. He should give countless interviews to as many news organizations as possible. He should explain his background and why it’s so offensive. During a match, if he gets called a raciest name he should tell the media about it after the game. These are the actions that will help rid soccer of racism.