Just Don’t Say It: A Simple Way to Not Promote Racism in Soccer & Life

I’m not going to open my article like Kevin Williams of The Athletic, with a story that justifies why I’m cool with someone non-black calling me the N-word if they grew up in a black community with black friends. I actually have respect for myself, my family, my culture, and won’t perpetuate the idea that it’s okay for someone non-black to say the N-word, ever. I’m not going to diminish the awful historical context that word holds and its effect on copious amounts of people even today. I’m not even going to tell you who should be able to say it and why saying it one way means something different than another way. I’m simply going to tell you, just don’t say it. And if your first thought is “well, why can’t I say it when it’s in this song and black people say it to each other publicly and blah blah blah,” then go ahead and acknowledge that you weigh your entitlement over racism and thanks for the 30-second pageview. You can promptly exit.


Soccer in America is a good representation of the melting pot that America is. With different cultures, upbringings, religions, and ideologies, it’s bound to have situations where players may have confrontations because of this. So, how do we solve an issue of potential racially driven encounters on the field? Just be a respectful person with common-sense. And before you tell me it’s not that simple, it actually is.


When a word has as much historical content as the word that was said to Atiba Harris during the TulsaRoughnecks FC vs. OKC Energy FC match, it means a lot of different things to different people. But, what’s not debated is the history and the effect the word has had in American culture. Fabian Bastidas doubled down on using the word, twice (and boy do I love when people keeping digging themselves deeper), by saying, where he comes from it’s normal to say the word to people as a sign of love and endearment. He mentions New York and I myself, can confirm while living in Brooklyn for five years, I was astounded by the amount of non-black people saying it to each other. I grew up in the South though, where saying that in public as a non-black person could bring certain consequences. But regardless of where he’s from and the context he meant the word in, Fabian shouldn’t have said it and should never say it. Really, it’s that easy. Instead of making this a long essay about it, here are two very simple reasons to put this to bed.

You’re at work

Before I get into the moral and logical reason, let’s start with the common-sense reason. Soccer is an entertaining and competitive activity that may not feel like a job, but it is for Fabian (well, it was). There are certain rules you have to abide by at your job and this isn’t any different. There are words, phrases, and even topics you’d never discuss at your job because you know the consequences it could bring. I don’t care if your best friend is working with you and you’ve said it to each other as a term of endearment for years. If your boss or a coworker hears it and doesn’t like it, you’re getting written up or fired. And that’s an example with someone you know personally, which brings me to my biggest and easily the most logical reason you shouldn’t say racially charged words to random people despite the context of how you think you’re using it… 


For someone who uses the word so casually, you would think Fabian would understand why some people would not like the word and especially, why they wouldn’t want to be referred to as the word. My experiences of being black and growing up in Georgia is a lot different than his not being black and growing up in New York City or wherever he calls home (I don’t care at this point). So, with that in mind, you’d think the most logical and moral driven action regarding the word would be “I should probably not use this word to a person I don’t know, because their interpretation and feelings towards the word might be different than mine.” But no, Fabian doubled down on the entitlement and stupidity by posting this on Instagram:



I read a tweet last year involving the US Open Cup fiasco where LAFC’s player Adama Diomande said he was called a racial slur by a Portland Timber’s player during their match. The tweet explained that a source said Dio was called the N-word by an American black player but Dio not being from America, took it offensively, not understanding the player did not mean it in an offensive way. And that’s the point I am making, people. It doesn’t matter the context you mean it in, it doesn’t matter who gave you “a pass” to say it, and it doesn’t matter if you personally wouldn’t be offended. People (especially black people) can be offended by the word itself no matter how you are conveying the context. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, tuck your entitlement back in.

Tulsa immediately responded to the situation by releasing Fabian from the team. A move which has since been called an overreaction and unnecessary. But in a game where it feels every week, we see racist chants, bananas, and items being thrown at players, and even coaches downplaying the blatant racism that’s happening to their players, what does no tolerance mean to you? Because it’s easy to retweet a statement that racism should have no part in the game but then when Tulsa sees a moment where racism happened and eliminates it from the game, you’re not practicing what you preach by calling it an overreaction, are you? Atiba, a black man, felt a type of way about a non-black person referring to him as a word that was meant for years to dehumanize men that looked just like Atiba. And he had every right to feel that type of way. Fabian doesn’t know Atiba’s background and feelings toward the word, I don’t know it, and unless this is Atiba reading this, neither do you.


At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if your black spouse, your Hot Topic shopping black friend from middle school who listened to Limp Bizkit with you, or even Atiba himself gave you a “pass,” Black or white, just don’t say it around people you don’t know. I couldn’t care less what you do in the privacy of your home where your woke white spouse puts a little Lawry’s on her dry @$$ chicken and blows your mind.  But, when you are publicly justifying the ideology that you’re okay with the word being said, it diminishes the culture, fight, and personal feelings that people associate with that word. It provides subjective tones that allows an excuse for people to feel comfortable saying it or question why they can/can’t say. So just don’t say it.