On Friday, September 6th, during the matchup between Utah Royals FC and Portland Thorns FC, public reports of racist and homophobic comments coming from a fan in attendance directed towards Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch made headlines.
Everyone from the club, players, the league, fans, media addressed the incident, speaking out against it. And rightly so, racism and homophobic comments do not belong in our soccer stadiums. They shouldn’t be a part of our society, but sadly, there are instances, and we saw the ugliness of it on Friday, stealing the joy of a soccer game.
On a night when Utah Royals FC defeated Portland Thorns FC for the first time in franchise history on a Becky Sauerbrunn header goal, when Nicole Barnhart, with six saves, and the defense shut out the top team in the NWSL, it was all overshadowed by the foulness of racism. We then found ourselves talking racism at the RioT, shaking our heads and calling out those who do not see the beauty of diversity, race, and ethnicity.
As far as we know, we do not know who dared to utter racist remarks. We may never know, unfortunately. The individual could not be identified by anyone in the section, and that is incredibly disappointing, that no one could, or want to, identify this individual. The investigation by the club is ongoing, however.
On Monday, the club issued a statement. Becky Sauerbrunn reiterated that racism would not be tolerated. It might have come two days later after the incident, but it came, and it was necessary.
Racist and homophobic language is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Rio Tinto Stadium.— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) September 10, 2019
Full club statement: https://t.co/jttxYwYhjX pic.twitter.com/SemR87Xp5a
“If you hear something wrong, offensive, or hateful inside the stadium, speak up, because I, my teammates, and this club stand against bigotry,” said Sauerbrunn.
And that’s really what we must do, stand up. Speak up. If this happens again, we all have the moral obligation to say something, to report racist and homophobic comments to the club and stadium personnel.
Maybe you’ve been a victim of racism and know the sting too well. Maybe you’ve never thought about how racism affects others, but believe me, words that dehumanize the color of someone’s skin are extremely painful.
The situation surrounding our game friday night is not a NEW issue, nor is it a first for me. RACISM is NOT okay in any form!! We as a HUMAN RACE can be better and should be better. We as a SPORT can help show the way. pic.twitter.com/SAoPwIuaLA— Adrianna Franch (@ADizzle23) September 8, 2019
Racist words carry such power to inflict pain or ridicule. My hope is that we are all ready to stand up to bigotry. Speak up.