The shutdown of NBA and other leagues in the U.S. for a few days in support of protests against racism and police brutality, who shot Jacob Blake, a black man, with seven shots, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, rekindled the discussion about the importance of the position of Brazilian players in the face of racial discrimination.
In Brazil, despite the proliferation of cases of violence against blacks (blacks and browns are 75% of those killed by the police, according to a report by the Security Observatory Network), the scenario is different, and few athletes speak out against discrimination. racial.
According to experts heard by the Estadão, athletes are not the only ones responsible for the omission due to the anti-racist agenda. The issue is complex and the problem is structural, so there are factors that discourage the athlete from positioning himself.
“It doesn’t just depend on them. It is necessary that entities, clubs and federations encourage these manifestations because what we are seeing in the USA, besides being something collective, is also something supported by these institutions ”, says Marcelo Carvalho, founder and director of the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Football, which maps cases of racism in the country and abroad.
The most recent report, not yet released, points out that there were 65 complaints in Brazilian football in 2019 – 13 more than in 2018. The entity still monitors other prejudices such as xenophobia and homophobia.
Another factor that discourages the player to take a stand is the fear of reprisals, something that even happens to famous people, like Colin Kaepernick, star of the NFL. “Here in Brazil, we are focused on the individual, wishing that the athletes manifest themselves and that something collective emerges from this position”, says Carvalho.
“The system doesn’t want him to talk about it. The system and the structure are racist. If he speaks, he will lose sponsorship, transferability. It will be seen as a black troublemaker ”, highlights the former referee Márcio Chagas, one of the few blacks who whistled football matches in the country.
He speaks from the experience of someone who has been a victim of racial injury. In 2014, he had bananas thrown in his car after working at the game Esportivo e Veranópolis, in Bento Gonçalves. He had no support from the Gaúcha Federation and ended his career earlier. “The system designed in football is nothing more than a contemporary representation of slavery. I paid the price when I reported it. ”
The issue, however, goes beyond the fear of reprisals. It is linked to Brazilian culture, in which the lack of knowledge of athletes, and of society in general, about the history of blacks reigns. In addition to education, the financial side is still an obstacle to making progress.
“The staff learns at school to give importance to Princess Isabel, and does not value our black heroes, Malcom X, Zumbi dos Palmares, etc. The players do not have the knowledge to fight against this racist system ”, emphasizes Wilson Santos, a former player who passed through São Paulo and Inter, for example.
Wilson is the nephew of Wladimir, the player who most often wore the Corinthians shirt, with 805 games, and an important figure in the Democracy of Corinthians, a movement that fought against the military dictatorship. “I come from a family where we talked about racism, with my uncle Wlad. Our self-esteem has always been high. As much as we heard many things about hair type, skin color, we talked at home and reinforced that we were beautiful, our hair was good. We wouldn’t let ourselves be shaken ”, he reiterates. “Racism is a perfect crime in Brazil because whoever reports ends up becoming a villain and whoever commits becomes a victim. The player or whoever positions himself is a victimist, opportunist, ‘mimizento’. Whoever denounces feels alone and has no reception at all ”, observes Márcio.
Brazilian sport lacks a LeBron James, an active voice in supporting the black movement in the United States. Nor does it have stars like tennis player Naomi Osaka and six-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who in addition to echoing social media protests, have become activists and have taken to the streets to endorse the crowd that denounces abuses against blacks.
“The name athletes who have a voice in the NBA, like LeBron James, are in the United States and live the reality there. Here, most of our main players, from the Brazilian team, are not here, they are not living the Brazilian reality” , points out Carvalho.
Given the lack of demonstration of strength and the absence of sports leaders capable of leading an anti-racist struggle movement, there is pessimism about a possible paradigm shift. “Due to this cultural issue that we have in Brazil, where the Negro has this financial dependence that comes from whiteness, which dominates all spaces, I do not believe that here we will advance to the point that some leadership will emerge that assumes this position in Brazil”, evaluates Márcio Chagas.
“I honestly do not see that in our scenario there will be a sports leadership that buys this fight, puts its face to blows, even if it is in a favorable financial position today. The system is very cruel”, he adds.
In general, the construction of the American athlete goes through universities, unlike what happens with Brazilian players, who are hardly encouraged to study social problems and create a critical view. There is the aggravating factor that athletes are conditioned from an early age, by the people around them, to only focus on football and end up closing themselves in a kind of bubble. This environment prevents them from seeing what is happening in the external world and makes them oblivious to social phenomena, such as what happened to Wilson at the time he was working.
“When I played, I felt like I was in the game, but I was so focused on the game that I saw it as a way for the opponent to take me seriously, to make me nervous. So I listened, but it was relevant because I thought I had to concentrate only on game, on my team. I was angry at the time, but I didn’t want to lose focus “, recalls the former defender.
Federations, clubs and other sports organizations also play an essential role in changing the landscape. Outside of Brazil, institutions, such as the NBA, provided support for anti-racist mobilization to gain strength.
“What clubs and federations do is post a sentence, join a week-long or 15-day campaign and that’s it. There needs to be more support, greater commitment from those on top to encourage the athlete to grow culturally and be an example for the younger generation “, points out Wilson.
Social inequality starts to bother
There are Brazilian athletes, however, who already take on this fight and become a counterpoint to the attitude of most of their colleagues. This is the case of some young footballers, such as Paulinho, from Bayer Leverkusen, Gregore, from Bahia, Jean Pyerre, from Grêmio, and Lucas Santos, from Vasco, who have been engaged in the social causes of the country, whether due to their proximity to social networks , which give them the possibility to interact and show their worldviews, or by family influence.
Lucas Santos was raised in the Para-Pedro community, in the northern zone of Rio. There, from an early age, he noticed the marked inequality in the lives of those around him. Soon, with the help of the family, the midfielder paved his way in football while shaping his class and race conscience. At just 21, he impresses with conscious speech.
“All sports should make a move or take action on racial issues and against all kinds of prejudice. The NBA boycott is going to mess with the racial structure here in Brazil. However, I think that Brazilian football would not have stalled rounds, unfortunately ”, admits to the Estadão Vasco’s midfielder. “The players here lack more awareness of the importance of fighting against this prejudice and the others too”.