say no to racism? Not according to Capdevila's twitter.
The Spanish left-back and Euro 2008 and World Cup winner Joan Capdevila of Villareal recently joined twitter. This in itself is nothing special; many, many footballers have taken to the 140-charactered-social network, from Jack Wilshere tweeting about his penchant for gossip girl, to Kaka wishing good vibes from god to his supporters and fans. Furthermore, footballers and free speech is an obvious accident waiting to happen, and already there have been controversies aplenty surrounding footballers and their tweets, whether it be Ryan Babel’s Howard Webb twitter picture suggesting the referee to be a Manchester United fan, or Arsenal’s talented-but-not-altogether-PR-savvy goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny tweeting his delight at Chelsea’s Ashley Cole’s penalty miss, a few days later incurring the ultimate hubris himself when he himself was involved in a mix-up with Koscielny that led to Arsenal losing the Carling Cup final. In the big bad world of the world wide web, a little diplomacy goes a long, long way. This point has been forgotten frequently by footballers in the past, but none more so than by Capdevila on Saturday. He tweeted this:
Which translates to “I love the jokes you send me! By the way, today I asked myself: If a Chinese woman has a 'clio', what does she have? A car or a child?"
(the joke is essentially a play on the age-old stereotype that Chinese people cannot differentiate between their “l”s and “r”s.)
I am horrified at this, not only as a Chinaman, but even more greatly, as a football fan. Footballers are role models. Capdevila should have known a lot, lot better than this. The tweet was discussed on a football community I frequent, ontd_football, and amongst the discussions, shit went down. For every excellent, intelligent point made was an equally stupid, bigoted comment trying to justify the joke, saying that it was “in the nature” of Spaniards to jest at ethnic minorities, it’s not “proper racism” and by reprimanding them for it, we were stifling their voices.
To which I say, mierda. Capdevila’s tweet, whilst not overtly calling Chinese people any racist names, was nonetheless, fundamentally racist. There’s several types of racism, explicit racism, which is easier to detect and call out the perpetrator for being a bigoted idiot, and there’s this sort – the more ~jokey type, which, if criticized for, many would just try to defend as being “banter~~~”. But it isn’t, not one bit. If anything, it's more harmful that explicit racism, because the former is obviously wrong, whereas casual racism like Capdevila's, with all its sinister undertones, can be tried to brush under the carpet with the guise of "oh, you too sensitive, he was just kidding! Sit down!"
I’m not trying to pin all of the world’s racism on Joan Capdevila’s tweet, far from it. In fact, I feel that that tweet – and the fact that he felt he could so casually publish it (it was then re-tweeted by over 100 people, more’s the pity) shows a sad fact; that for all the talking of a unified, globalized, more diverse community, racism is still hugely present in the world today. A few years ago, on Celebrity Big Brother, when Danielle Lloyd said of Shilpa Shetty “I think she should just fuck off home”, that was racist. As is the ~lad’s humour~ of Top Gear, with their persistent racial comments about Mexico like it's no big. These sort of things, some people might perceive as harmless and inoffensive, but they’re anything but, let me tell you.
Now, it is my opinion that Capdevila really needs to be called out for this tweet, and punished for it. It would set a precedent, and show that this kind of offensive humour is not ok, not one bit. Thankfully the majority of other footballers, for all their inanities, haven’t tweeted anything else like this, but even the fact that there’s still one football tweeting racist jokes and getting away with it, when such a big fuss is made out of obliterating racism out of football, well, FIFA, talk about mixed signals.
Racism, kick it out? If footballers continue to mindlessly tweet “jokes” like this, kicking and screaming its way back in, more like.