Yesterday’s Sydney Leroux saga had a few predictable outcomes. Late in the day, we heard Leroux wasn’t specifically talking about the game in Toronto on Sunday — in fact, she says the atmosphere there was great! “A positive step forward for women’s soccer,” even.
Of course, by then, it was too late for the Toronto crowd. Many of the mainstream media stories on the web have been updated with Leroux’s clarification — she was talking about an older game in Vancouver, plus Twitter — but a lot of headlines still reflect what her tweet implied: The crowd in Toronto was using racist chants against her.
To respond to one of yesterday’s comments — I don’t see such accusations as “minutiae.” I’d rather be called a bleepity-bleep whatever than a racist. I’ve been called a racist before. It hurts. It cuts to your soul. It is not an accusation to be tossed around lightly and then say, “Oh, I meant those OTHER guys.”
So that’s one lesson learned, and it’s one of many excellent points in Richard Whittall’s column, “Some lessons from the Leroux saga.”
Another lesson is aimed squarely at Canadian fans, in response to attitudes like this:
I’m not going to walk around asking Canadian players what they think of their fans tossing out the c-word and b-word. They shouldn’t have to confront this themselves. Those of us with Y chromosomes should simply know better.
As Whittall put it:
That the rest of the world has set a low bar in acceptable bounds of player abuse isn’t a great reason for Canadian or American fans of womens soccer to do the same.
I’m also still befuddled by people trotting out the notion that this sort of thing happens in men’s soccer all the time, so there’s some sort of double-standard in place. “Balotelli does it” is one of those arguments. Yes, and Balotelli is one the most controversial, if not the most reviled, soccer players in the world.
Europe offers plenty of soccer traditions to emulate. Balotelli’s behavior and fans hurling sexist epithets aren’t among them. Or maybe one day we’ll end borrowing another European tradition — forcing teams to play in empty stadiums.
So, moving forward, we can hope Leroux will quit throwing gasoline on the fire with poorly chosen celebrations and poorly focused accusations. She has made plenty of enemies of non-racist, non-abusive Canadian fans who may have defended her in the past.
But as fans, we all need to take a step back and think about the limits of our fan passions. The Voyageurs immediately spoke out against racism, and that’s terrific. It’s not, however, the end of the conversation about what’s acceptable in the stands.