DaMarcus Beasley and Daryl Dike were born almost 20 years apart from each other, but as two African-Americans in football, their stories unfortunately still remain similar in the level of racism that they have experienced from playing as children, up to the racism they have witnessed in football as professional players. They both spoke on Eurosport’s podcast “RAW” about the racism they have endured as well as their hope for the future. And with the recent racist reactions to a number of black England players after their European Championship final loss, this conversation is just as important as ever.
Beasley was born in 1982 and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He achieved over 100 caps for the United States national team and played for big European clubs such as PSV, Man City and Rangers. He retired in 2019, just one year before Daryl Dike would start his professional career. Dike was born in 2000 in Edmond, Oklahoma and is at the beginning of his journey. He has had a breakthrough season on loan to Championship side Barnsley from the MLS team Orlando City, and was instrumental in helping Barnsley get to the play-offs. He now has interest from a number of clubs in Europe and should be filled with nothing but pride and happiness at what is to come. But unfortunately, as a black player, he cannot just think about his promising career and instead, carries the burden that he could be subject to racism both on and off the pitch.
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Beasley and Dike both experienced racism in sport from a young age. While football in the UK is seen as a mostly racially diverse sport, in the USA, football or “soccer” is often seen as a white and middle-class sport and has low numbers for racial diversity. For example, while the NBA is around 75% black, the MLS is only around 25%, and as a result of this difference, both Beasley and Dike found themselves often as one of the only black children playing football amongst their peers. While they both never particularly felt out of place because of this, they did notice teammates express racial stereotypes about being black and playing sport. Dike recalled that people would say things like “man, I wish I was black, then I could be that fast”, and would focus in on his physical abilities and claim that he only excelled in that because he was black. Beasley also had similar experiences and recognises just how damaging these stereotypes can be in pigeonholing black people to just their physicality:
It's a form of racism because that's all you think we're good for. We can't be smart. We can't be intelligent. We can't be creative. Only thing we're good for is, you know, being strong and running fast.
These stereotypes continue to live on in football, and in a research report by the RunRepeat organisation, they found that this bias was prominent within commentary. RunRepeat analysed 2,073 statements from commentators in 80 football matches from the 2019/20 season and found that 62.60% of praise about intelligence was aimed at players with lighter skin tones, whereas 63.33% of criticism about intelligence was aimed at players with darker skin tones. Moreover, when talking about physicality such as “power” they were 6.59 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin.

Beasley’s experience with racism in football did not just stop at racial stereotypes. In 2007 during a Champions league game against FK Zeta while playing for Rangers, Beasley was subjected to disgusting scenes. Every time he would get the ball, opposing fans would boo him, whistle at him and even direct monkey chants his way. He tried to not let it affect him and even managed to shimmy past three players and rifle a 20-yard strike into the back of the net, but it of course still deeply affected him.
What also hurt him was the feeling that there was nothing he could do to make a stand against it. In recent years we have seen players unite and walk off the pitch together to protest instances of racism during matches, but Beasley did not feel like that was an option for him. He explained: “Not saying anything against Rangers, nothing, anything against my teammates, but I didn't feel that I was, you know, I would have that support if I would have walked off the field”. This element of support from teammates has somewhat improved, with teams such as PSG, Valencia and lower league team Haringey Borough all walking off to support their colleagues, and Beasley recognises this shift from players: “you look at the players now, and they're bold, you know, they're strong. They - excuse my language - don't take s*** from nobody, you know, especially with when it comes to racism. And I love that.”

DaMarcus Beasley during the Apertura 2012 Liga Mx

Image credit: Eurosport

Dike also recognises some improvements in his generation’s experience with racism. While social media has heightened a lot of the direct racist abuse that players receive, Dike also believes it can be a tool for positive change:
I don't think everything is just kind of boom, here we go, my social media posts, vanishes racism, vanishes. But you know, I think in terms of making society kind of see that, how it actually affects people, how it affects, you know, humans and then also kind of instilling the idea in young generations to see and think that is wrong.
He also explains how in Beasley’s case, a lot of people would have not known it was happening and so “[maybe] nobody thought it was necessarily a problem because they may have been ignorant to it”, whereas now players have that direct line of communication with football supporters to expose the level of racism that they experience on a constant basis.

While it is positive to see both Dike and Beasley feel hopeful about the future and have had seen improvements with racism, there is of course still a long way to go. In 2018, just 5% of the FA’s leadership roles belonged to people of BAME backgrounds, there is currently only one manager from a BAME background in the Premier League, and just one black technical director in English football.
For a sport that is so diverse in players, it is another reminder of how the emphasis on racial stereotypes of black physicality over intelligence can also affect opportunities for senior roles once retiring from playing. Beasley’s and Dike’s experiences are sadly too similar for two people born almost 2 decades apart from each other, but with more outspoken players of all races, and with the likes of Dike set to have a successful career and be an inspiration for younger generations, hopefully Dike will be able to sit down with a young black American player in 20 years and have completely different experiences to share.
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