There is no place for racism in sports, warned the Ministry of Youth and Sports, in reference to an indefinite suspension that was imposed on national hockey player Hanis Nadiah Onn over a racist remark she made on social media recently.
The 26-year-old has been suspended from representing the country, including in the upcoming SEA Games in Cambodia, after posting an offensive comment regarding the concert of Oscar-winning Indian music composer AR Rahman which was largely attended by Indians.
She had commented on her Instagram account that the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, where AR Rahman had held his concert, was smelly. The insinuation was insulting to many.
Although Hanis did not do anything that could be deemed racist to her fellow athletes, expressing – let alone harbouring – a racist sentiment does not augur well for a sports contingent that is presumably multi-racial.
Besides, athletes such as Hanis have the potential of becoming a role model for young people and her fans. They should provide a good – not bad – example.
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Indeed, sports should be an arena where excellence and commitment in various activities become the main factors that can bring people of different ethnic, religious and gender backgrounds together and unite them around the final objective to succeed. This is apart from having fun together.
In this context, racism can be seen as one of the stumbling blocks to collective success in sporting activities.
Racism has to be nipped in the bud because it can be as corrosive as corruption. Neither should it be normalised to our detriment. Thus, punishment is an expected outcome.
Similarly, it is disturbing to learn that a teacher was alleged to have coaxed his 15-year-old student recently to embrace Islam for a better chance of becoming a national footballer.
For one thing, it is wrong to attempt to convert any young person without the consent of his or her parents.
It is reassuring to know that the Ministry of Education is looking into this matter because the teacher and his should not be encouraged to have the impression that only Malay-Muslims are entitled to play football for the country.
The teacher’s apparent ignorance of sports and football in Malaysia has unfortunately deprived him of appreciating such football greats as Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Ann, Santokh Singh and R Arumugam, who collectively made the people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds proud.
Race and religion, which are usually intertwined in our society, should not serve as incentives in this manner because they could be seen as being needlessly cheapened.
Success in sports is not the preserve or monopoly of a particular race or religion. Anyone who has what it takes to be a good athlete should be given the opportunity to excel and succeed.
To be sure, racism has no place not only in sports but also in other facets of national life, especially politics.
It stands to reason that politicians who utter racist remarks and pit one racial group against another should be checked and brought to justice.
Have we not heard, for instance, of a politician accusing a particular racial group of being the root of corruption in the country? The culpable politician should be made an example to others.
Otherwise, the punishment meted out to the likes of Hanis would only be seen as the powers that be having the political will to come down hard only on the ‘small people’. There should be no double standards when dealing with racists of different social standing because justice is at stake.
It is crucial that the racial politics peddled by certain politicians be seriously addressed so that it does not adversely affect the country’s sports and education system and other sectors in the country.
The politics of race and religion should not be a game-changer. – The Malaysian Insight