Players union points to study showing racial bias in broadcast commentary of European soccer

Yahoo Sports

European soccer has long struggled with racism infiltrating the sport.

A players union representing British players claims that broadcasters are making the problem worse.

A representative of the Professional Footballers’ Association said on Tuesday that language used in broadcasts of European soccer demonstrates racial bias among the commentators and pointed to a study examining how they speak differently about white players and players of color, the Associated Press reports.

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Language on intelligence, work ethic examined

The study conducted by Danish research firm RunRepeat found that 63 percent of language used to praise player intelligence was directed toward players with lighter skin, while 63 percent of language critical of player intelligence was used to describe players with darker complexion.

Lighter-skinned players were also on the receiving end of 60 percent of the language used to praise player work ethic, according to the study. Commentators are seven times as likely to praise a dark-skinned player for his power and three times as likely to talk about how fast he is. The study was done in conjunction with the PFA.

“When you’re playing football and someone is painting the picture that you’re powerful, you’re quick, you’re aggressive, they’re great traits to have,” PFA equalities executive Jason Lee told AP. “But you’re not saying ‘industrious, intelligent, creative.’ You’re not using that terminology.”

A study found that broadcasters calling Premier League games praised the intelligence of light-skinned players while more often criticizing that of darker-skinned players. (AP Photo/Hannah McKay,Pool)
A study found that broadcasters calling Premier League games praised the intelligence of light-skinned players while more often criticizing that of darker-skinned players. (AP Photo/Hannah McKay,Pool)

The study examined 80 games played in the Premier League in addition to games played in Italy, Spain and France. It considered language used in English-speaking broadcasts for British, U.S. and Canadian outlets.

Lee called for broadcasters to be more aware of their unconscious bias.

“To address the real impact of structural racism, we have to acknowledge and address racial bias,” Lee said. “This study shows an evident bias in how we describe the attributes of footballers based on their skin color. Commentators help shape the perception we hold of each player, deepening any racial bias already held by the viewer.”

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