The existence of racism and other forms of discrimination continues to be a scourge of modern society. Moreover, it is reprehensible for an individual to be vilified on the basis of race, colour, age, sex, gender, religion, disability and social status. It leads to psychological suffering, anger and the potential for violence. As a social issue, we all aspire to eradicate racist and discriminatory behaviour in the pursuit of an ideal, moralistic society that is fair, just, egalitarian and respectful of an individual’s rights.

Specifically, the understanding of discriminatory behaviour is a complex issue. Psychologically, it is driven by elements of fear, insecurity, dehumanisation and the need to exact aggressive control or retribution. Ultimately, it is reflective of the individual responsible and their morals, ethics and personal belief systems. It is a statement of their upbringing and cultural influences in their own background. It is a social manifestation of the need to act out aggressive impulses.

Sport, in essence, offers society a forum to potentially address this most difficult of social ills. Sport represents a civilised alternative to acting out our primitive, competitive instincts, without the need to go to war. It is, therefore, powerful and necessary to the human experience. It is no coincidence that sport is often described as an arena, its competitors as gladiatorial, to win at all costs. Society itself tries to infuse noble concepts to sanitise the more primeval parts of the human psyche, to allow us to vent our own tribal frustrations vicariously through unwavering support of a team one identifies with. It is a powerful regulator of mood, cognitions and behaviour. It works well when a team wins, but equally can lead to problems when a team loses. Anger then becomes envy, which in turn requires some protest, possibly violence. An individual therefore will model their behaviour accordingly, mirroring individuals within the team and conduct of the team itself and what it stands for.

So why does discrimination still exist in sport and society in general, in spite of all attempts to eradicate it? Indeed, the problem seems, if anything, to be getting worse.

It is because sport as a solution, inadvertently creates a larger problem. While it fosters controlled aggression, venting of frustration, expression of emotions in a “civilised” way, it also brings together opposition and not just in a sporting sense. Opposing ideals, expectations, judgements and personalities brought together in a forum for conflict. For some key individuals, this is the catalyst and justification for racism fuelled by rage and frustration in other parts of their lives. The opposition team and its supporters are seen as responsible for an individual’s own issues and, by extension, to blame for the issues of not only a society but an entire country. The opposition supporters, players and the team they represent become the dehumanised enemy that need to be abused, vilified, punished and ultimately, eradicated. With that comes a temporary feeling of superiority and worth at the expense of others deemed as inferior. Supporters will default to this position irrespective of whether their team wins or loses, driven by euphoria or anger.

Almost daily, there are numerous reported conflicts across the globe citing examples of incidents where individuals have been vilified playing their chosen sport. The approach by different sports in different countries confronting the problem is fractured. In addition, attempts to deal with the problem have been largely ineffective.

In the international setting, there are two main themes that emerge as pervasive and undeniable: Not enough is being done and whatever is being done does not work.

What if there was a better way to deal with the issue of discrimination and inequality in sport, and by extension, society?

The key is unity. A unifying symbol that is easily recognisable and can be utilised by different sports, by anyone, at any level. A powerful, global initiative that has a representative logo, creed and behavioural ritual demanding respect and equality that recognises the individual, family, team and community through their chosen sport. That is LUDO AEQUITAS.

The ethos could then be extended as a strategy for the mediation of conflict in all sections of society. Non sporting groups could also support the concept and become advocates for a more tolerant society.

Impossible? No. Grandiose? Maybe.

It should not be this hard, to do something this good.


Author Dr Phillip Salonikis – May 10, 2017

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