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It’s very easy to not be racist, and yet

Chelsea suspend six fans, one for life, after Raheem Sterling incident in December

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Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Photo by Steven Paston/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Though the regression of our current time may suggest otherwise, racism is bad. Not only is it the dumbest ideology to follow and exhibit, any tolerance of it helps to grow — a la roach infestations. Football, like society, has a racism problem, and neither have done a good enough job of calling it what it is, and punishing it.

Against Manchester City on December 8 of last year, Raheem Sterling approached the rambunctious crowd at Stamford Bridge and was shouted at in an aggressive manner. If you’re a person of color, that type of aggression was familiar.

”…pure frustration and anger on people’s faces.”

”The abuse I got there — looking at the fans — made me realize this is more than just about football.”

–Raheem Sterling; source: CNN

After allowing the Crown Prosecution Service to reach their determination in late April (case dropped), Chelsea begun their own inquiry (civil, instead of criminal), and have today announced punishments for the individuals involved.

· One individual has been permanently excluded from Stamford Bridge for the use of racially abusive language and threatening and aggressive behaviour.

· Five individuals have been temporarily excluded from attending Stamford Bridge for periods of between one and two years for the use of abusive language and threatening and aggressive behaviour.

Chelsea also thoroughly explained these decisions, including the use of video evidence adn two lip-reading experts, both of whom confirmed that racially abusive words were used by the individual who denied his actions is now banned for life from Stamford Bridge.

A bit silly it took all of that, but as shameful as being racist is, the shame only comes for some when they’re being called out on their racism (because using one’s privilege to play the victim very often works). But racists know what they’re doing, and should not be given the benefit of the doubt of ignorance, “heat of the moment”, or having their abuse labeled a mistake.

We understand that this incident has been the subject of discussion amongst supporters, and the Club appreciates that emotions can run high during matches. However, in this case the behaviour of all six individuals crossed the line of what is acceptable.

It’s easy to think of racism as something that can be cured with a little bit of education, but it’s not the common cold, it’s a systemic scourge that codes of conduct alone aren’t enough to fight. Holding people accountable for their racism through shaming and societal exclusion is the only way to shove it into the sewers from whence it came.

Furthermore, in the case of the supporter who was found by the Club to have used racially abusive language, there is no place for this behaviour at Stamford Bridge and a permanent exclusion was the appropriate sanction. Given the particular circumstances of this case, the Club did not consider that attendance at an education course in return for a reduced sanction would have been appropriate.

So far, the only action much of professional football has taken to kick out racism is placing the slogan in rotation on their advertising boards. It should not be a difficult thing to get right, but as we have seen over and over again, for too many — and for a multitude of reasons nowhere near good enough — it is.

It’s odd to be proud of a football club for taking action to make its environment welcoming for anyone other than racists, but as it’s rare that leagues, football associations, and teams’ codes and policies are enforced to any meaningful standard, I’m pleased Chelsea is taking these issues seriously and with more than just words.

Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour abhorrent and we will continue to operate a zero tolerance approach to any incidents of racism. We are proud to be a diverse, inclusive club where people from all cultures, communities and identities feel welcome. We are clear and consistent in our condemnation of discriminatory behaviour and language and all fans should remember that their words and actions can cause offence to those around them and to the wider community. We will continue to work with our supporters to rid the game of all forms of discrimination.

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