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UN Rights Chief Slams Sports Racism

FILE: The Brazilian footballer for Real Madrid, Vinícius Júnior, accuses Spain of being racist in the face of a new scandal. Taken May 21, 2023.

GENEVA - United Nations rights chief Volker Turk decried Wednesday the racist attacks on Brazilian footballer Vinicius Junior during a match in Spain, urging concerted efforts to root racism out of sports.

"We are calling on all those organized sport events everywhere in the world to counter and combat and prevent racism," U.N.'s Volker Turk told reporters in Geneva.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights' comments came after 22-year-old Real Madrid forward Vinicius was targeted with shouts of "monkey" from the stands during a match in Valencia on Sunday - the latest in a series of racist attacks against him.

Turk said it was "a stark reminder of the prevalence of racism in sport."

He hailed the "very strong reaction from the authorities," pointing out that "they started arresting people very quickly afterwards."

"An investigation has to happen. It's clear that it's an affair that will preoccupy the judiciary."

He stressed, though, that "those who organize sports events take that issue very seriously".

Turk highlighted the many positive aspects of sports, for instance in building communities.

But, he said, "we need to deal with the shadow side as well."

Turk said he had asked his office to prepare a policy brief looking into the issue of racism in sports.

"We need to have a hard look at human rights and sports from a wide range of perspectives," he said.

"We want to put forward a number of clear ideas of human rights standards in sport events," he said, pointing to issues around participation, inclusion and "fighting stigmatization, racism."

It must be made absolutely clear, he said, that "racism is totally unacceptable".

He said everyone in society should think about how they act.

"Do I have bias?... How do I react when I see someone else making a racist slur?... Do I deal with it, do I respond to it?"

"We need to find ways and means to eradicate it entirely in the 21st century. It requires everyone to be onboard."