Prejudice is everywhere; even in sports. Fans have been attending soccer matches and spewing antisemitic behavior.
Now the Chelesea football club in England will be offering their fans an opportunity to overcome their prejudiced behavior.
Instead of having the club confiscate their season tickets for a period of three years, those who have exhibited racist behavior can either accept the three-year ban or participate in educational courses taught at Auschwitz.
Roman Abramovich, the part owner of the club, is the primary force behind this initiative. The Chelsea football club will cover the costs of the program since they are set on terminating racist behavior.
Abramovich, who is Jewish himself, has already organized two visits to Auschwitz as part of its efforts to combat antisemitism. Fans who choose the option of taking a course at Auschwitz will be invited on future trips.
“If you just ban people, you will never change their behavior,” said Cheslea chairman Bruce Buck, according to The Sun. “This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better.”
“In the past, we would take them from the crowd and ban them, for up to three years. “Now we say ‘You did something wrong. You have the option. We can ban, you or you can spend some time with our diversity officers, understanding what you did wrong.’”
“Following a proposal raised at our Fan’s Forum, the club is launching an education program for supporters banned for anti-semitic behavior, as well as helping them to understand the impact of their actions, with participation in the course potentially leading to a reduction in the length of their ban,” the club said in a statement.
The initiative has been looked favorably by the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that protects Jews from anti-semitism.
Head of CST policy, Dave Rich, told Huffpost UK: “Giving people the opportunity to change their views and learn, and tackling anti-semitism through education is definitely something to be welcomed.
“If it works, then it’s much better than just banning somebody,” he continued. “If you ban someone from your football stadium they still have their racist views, it’s much better to change them.
“This sets an example of how to tackle anti-semitism, not just for football clubs, but others in society.”
The Say No Anti-Semitism initiative was also launched in March and a delegation from the club attended the March of the Living at Auschwitz.
Two months later, 150 Chelsea fans visited Auschwitz and two Holocaust survivors, Harry Spiro and Mala Tribich, spoke of their experiences.
“Hearing from a survivor, learning about the Holocaust, and understanding what language constitutes hate speech, all contribute to a better understanding and greater awareness of what anti-semitism is and how to combat it,” said Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Through this initiative, the Chelesea football club is making a real commitment in fighting this issue within the games and the wider community,” she added.
Justin Juenemann, a backup kicker for the University of Minnesota’s football team, recently received an unexpected gift from an equally unexpected source. The 23 year-old has diligently worked as a volunteer at Masonic Children’s Hospital throughout his college years. His coaches and teammates were inspired to do something for him.
“Our goal was to create a moment of memory for Justin and his family forever because that’s what he earned,” said P.J. Fleck, head coach of the Minnesota Gophers.
Kyle Tanner, a teen patient at the hospital, spoke in front of the team and singled out Juenemann as his favorite player. Coach Fleck handed Tanner a t-shirt and told him to put it into a t-shirt cannon and fire it directly at Juenemann. He did so. Juenemann caught the white shirt, unraveled it and read the message on the front.
“Justin, congrats you have earned a scholarship,” it read. Justin and his teammates celebrated afterward and he FaceTimed his mother to show her the shirt.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Juenemann said. “It is something that I will never forget.”
“I’ve never seen anybody serve and give more than that guy who is not a star player,” Fleck said. “He could easily just not do it and nobody would ever say anything, and he does is continue to keep his oar in the water and live that holistic life academically, athletically, socially, and spiritually. His life is not about him. His life is about serving and giving to other people.”
This scholarship will help Juenemann complete his senior year.
“I am pursuing a human resources degree and I’m looking…to help people throughout the rest of my life,” he said.
Damon Hodges has always dreamed of playing football, but the odds seemed to be against him.
Hodges, 16, was born with “twisted feet” and had them both amputated when he was 2 years old. Since then, Hodges has used prosthetic legs. However, this did not stop him from pursuing his dream of playing football.
Hodges approached the football coach at his Ohio high school and asked to join the team.
“He said, ‘Coach, I want to play football,’” coach Chet Allen said. “It’s like, ‘Well, you know, we got a lot of hurdles.’ But this dude gets up every day, does everything you ask him to do, shows up.”
The experience has not been easy. In the beginning, Hodges would fall when running, but he always got back up and continued to press on in spite of discouragement.
“A lot of people told me I couldn’t play football,” Hodges said, “but I never listened to anybody and now I’m playing varsity football.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association has approved Hodges’ prosthetics for the upcoming season.
As he prepares to play, Hodges is sharing a message of perseverance and empowerment to people facing similar challenges.
“Never believe anybody who wants to put you down,” Hodges said. “Do what you want to do: football and any other sport that you need to, if you’re disabled, because anything you put your mind to, you can do it.”
Kirk Merritt topped the University of Oregon’s wish list for the incoming class of 2015 for over the past two months.
“The one guy I’m trying to get right now, and I know I’ve said it a lot, is Kirk Merritt,” U.S. Army All-American quarterback Travis Waller said. “That’s the final element to this recruiting class, I think.”
Merritt won the Nike SPARQ national championship as the nation’s top performer in a series of athletic drills. Tailored for a spread offense, his two finalists were Texas A&M and Oregon entering Monday evening’s announcement.
The 5-foot-11, 203-pound prospect chose Oregon in a ceremony in his hometown of Destrehan, Louisiana. From the recruiting program, the Ducks claimed three of the top four all-purpose backs in the country.
Merritt is viewed as a likely slot receiver and return man in the De’Anthony Thomas mold. ESPN considers him the 146th-best recruit in the country.
Despite not making the top 100 prospects list, the multipurpose playmaker received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, UCLA and many more.
The final SPARQ rating is based off of a number of events including the 40-yard dash, shuttle run, kneeling powerball toss and vertical leap. Height and weight are also factored into the final score.
Merritt felt great about the achievement.
“The year before I was just working on vertical, the 40, my shuttle,” he said. “I’d like to thank my trainer, my coaches for helping me be able to do all that. It’s a humbling experience, that recognition, but it felt good.”
Oregon earned Merritt’s first college visit for the game against Stanford, when the coaching staff built a strong bond with him.
“I really loved it there,” he said. “I watched YouTube videos of the facilities. I really love the coaches. The coaches, I trust them about what position I can play.”
For Oregon, Merritt’s commitment represents victory as the coaching staff worked hard to win over the prospective athlete.
More information on which recruits signed with Oregon can be found here.
For the upcoming national championship game against Ohio State, Nike outfitted the Oregon Ducks with drastic uniform upgrades. The trademark green is gone. And save a small Nike swoosh on the players’ socks, the yellow has also vanished.
The only re-used piece of gear is the white helmets with silver wings. The white jerseys and gray pants are brand new additions.
“It’s Oregon’s tradition to be untraditional when it comes to our athletic programs,” Oregon spokesman Andy McNamara told USA TODAY Sports. “We have a great relationship with Nike and the combined creativity with them allows us to do great things.”
Despite the unconventionality, the uniforms did pay respect to Ducks tradition: the logo on the undershirt is positioned at a 27-degree angle to represent the 27 bowl games in Ducks football history.
Although excited to attend the championship game this weekend, Keizer City Councilor Roland Herrera was initially surprised by the team’s color choice.
“I thought ‘what, no yellow or green?’ But then I started thinking about it, and decided it’s so Duck,” Herrera said. “They do their own thing. I would have preferred the team colors, but I’m a true fan. Whatever they do, I’ll support. What can I say? They’re the good guys in white, and I love the Ducks. I’m with them all the way. It’ll just take some thought to figure out what we’ll wear.”
The Ohio State Buckeyes proved traditionalists in keeping with their mascot colors of scarlet, gray, and white. Nike also designed Ohio State’s uniforms.
The Ducks and Buckeyes will face off in Arlington, Texas on Monday, January 12.