PSG's Angel Di Maria did something undeniably stupid in the second half of his team's Champions League semifinal match on Tuesday. He stomped on Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho, and earned himself a straight red card.
But in the aftermath, CBS color commentator Jim Beglin did something undeniably stupid in its own right.
"It's that Latino temperament," Beglin said, as Di Maria, an Argentine midfielder, walked off the field.
Around 10 minutes later, Beglin referenced the comment, and offered an apology – which fell flat, because he seemed to misunderstand what he was apologizing for.
“When Di Maria was sent off, I said – or I described it by using the word 'Latino,'" Beglin said on air during live action. "For anybody that’s taken offense to that, I do apologize – sincerely apologize.”
Comments like Beglin's perpetuate stereotypes
The problem, though, isn't that Beglin used the word "Latino." There's nothing offensive about it on its own. The problem is that he ascribed Di Maria's temperament to his ethnicity.
In doing so, he perpetuated a racial stereotype. There are thousands of Latino soccer players who do not have a bad temper, of course, and there are thousands of non-Latino players – including a few in Tuesday's game – who do.
But would Beglin, who is Irish, ascribe an Irish player's red card to "Irish temperament"?
When, for example, Man City fullback Oleksandr Zinchenko angrily erupted in the same game, did Beglin describe it as "Ukrainian fury"?
Of course not.
Studies have shown that soccer commentary is full of implicit bias. Announcers, many of whom are white, are more likely to praise white players for intelligence and leadership, and more likely to criticize non-white players for a lack of those qualities, while those non-white players are often praised for "pace and power." Those trends, and many others, are based on ill-informed stereotypes, and they reinforce them.
"Commentators help shape the perception we hold of each player, deepening any racial bias already held by the viewer," Jason Lee, an executive from English soccer's players' association, said in March. "It’s important to consider how far-reaching those perceptions can be and how they impact footballers even once they finish their playing career."
Beglin apologizes again
Beglin seemed contrite after his comment Tuesday. But at first, he didn't quite seem to understand what he'd done wrong, which underscores just how ingrained this problem is, and how much progress the industry must make to undo longstanding prejudices.
Later Tuesday night, he issued a second apology, which more directly addressed the problematic nature of his comment.
"I apologize for my culturally insensitive remarks," he wrote in a statement. "I wrongly used a racial stereotype. This was inappropriate and unacceptable. Words have a strong impact and I fully understand the severity of what I said when Angel Di Maria was sent off.
"I will learn from this and be better moving forward."
In other news, Man City, which fielded four South American players, won Tuesday's game comfortably, and advanced to the Champions League final, where it'll play either Chelsea or Real Madrid.
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