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Racism in sport: “Let’s put it offside!”

For International Day on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Thursday 21 March 2013

Racism in sport: “Let’s put it offside!”

Geneva / Washington, 21 March 2013 – What can we really do to put racism offside? - Asks a group of top human rights experts on racial discrimination International Day on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“International Day on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a unique opportunity to celebrate diversity, and on this day we urged all sportswomen and sportsmen, sports authorities and fans to take decisive action against intolerance and racism in sports.

In every society, sportswomen and sportsmen are role models whose behaviour and conduct carries great influence on their fans and in particular the youth. Sports are an opportunity to celebrate human achievement and excellence beyond the narrow boundaries of ethnicity, race or nationality.

Sports events should be seen as a chance to promote inter-culturalism in all societies based on the principles of equality, solidarity and respect for diversity. Racist insults and violence and discrimination have no place in these activities and negate the spirit of sportsmanship.

No country is immune to racist movements and racist manifestations by supporters of sport activities, and today we urge world governments to declare zero tolerance to denigrating and racist expressions in sport; to swiftly address all manifestations of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, both in sport and in all other situations; and hold accountable the perpetrators.

‘We call on States and sports authorities in different parts of the world to intensify the fight against racism through awareness creation, and by imposing appropriate sanctions on clubs and individuals who propagate racial hatred, abuse and violence,’ says Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

‘Regrettably, we continue to witness supporters of competing teams resorting to racist slurs, gestures and even violence to demean and attack their opponents or players of the opposite team. When such an incident occurs, swift action must be taken, not only by public authorities to condemn it and to hold those responsible to account, but also by the community at large to stand in solidarity against all forms of racial discrimination,’ stresses Mr. Alexei S. Avtonomov, who currently heads the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. ‘Indeed, this day serves as an important reminder for all of us to stand up for the universal principle: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’

‘Racial discrimination, xenophobia and stigmatisation faced in particular by people of African descent must be addressed at the community, national and international levels. They can only be effectively combatted by affirming universal values based on human rights and human dignity,’ adds Ms. Verene Shepherd, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. ‘We should also recognize the contribution of people of African descent not only to sports, but also to the development, diversity and richness of world civilizations and cultures.’

‘Overcoming racism requires addressing public attitudes and private beliefs which justify and perpetuate racism at all levels and in all areas of life. Success by peoples of African descent in sport has been one important way of enabling the re-evaluation of such harmful attitudes,' says Ms. Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rapporteur on People of African Descent and Against Racial Discrimination of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

'We must kick discrimination off the field and tackle exclusion once and for all. But what can we really do to put racism offside? Let’s uphold both in words and in deeds the values of fair play, honest competition, respect and tolerance both on and off the field.'

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. Learn more, visit:

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established by the then Commission on Human Rights in 2002 following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. Learn more, log on to:

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. Learn more, visit:

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights appointed Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rapporteur on the Rights of People of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination in 2012. Learn more, log on to:


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