By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
These were the words of Jamie Vardy, an English Premier League soccer player, to an Asian man at a casino in England: “Yo. Jap. Walk on.”
Vardy, a player for the Thai-owned Leicester City of the Premiership, was not severely punished for this racist tirade despite a decree of “zero tolerance” of racism by the league.
Vardy, a 28-year-old player from Sheffield, England, was playing high-stakes poker at a casino when he made the comments to a man described as being of “East Asian” descent. He claimed that the man was attempting to look at his hand while playing poker which resulted in his racist rant. Vardy described his actions as a “regrettable error in judgment.” The club issued a statement in which it conducted its own investigation and have dealt with the matter.
“Having established a full account of the incident in question and taken into consideration Jamie’s prompt apology, the club has issued the player with a substantial fine and prescribed a program “of diversity awareness training,” read a portion of the statement from the club.
Leicester City is owned by Asian Football Investments, led by successful Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who founded King Power Duty Free. Srivaddhanaprabha’s company also sponsors the soccer team. The team is also led by his son, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabh.
The soccer star apologized for his actions after the fact. Vardy had “clear-the-air talks” with Japanese teammate Shino Okazaki after his racist rant was caught on video. Vardy, and likely the team, thought it should be necessary that he speak with Okazaki to make sure that his casino comments were not a broad generalization about what he thought of Asians. Of course, it likely was. The term “Jap” for those who do not know is a derogatory term. There were no public comments made by Okazaki about his meeting with Vardy.
Vardy was not let go by his team despite its cutting three players last year for racist comments made to Thai women during a goodwill tour of Thailand. The players were accused of being involved in a sex orgy with the women. A video surfaced of the players engaging in the acts. One of the players, James Pearson, referred to one of the women as a “slit eye.” Once the video surfaced, Leicester City was swift in its actions to disassociate the players from the team.
In the latest instance of racial insensitivity, Vardy was not fired. Whether or not he should have been is a matter for the team and a league as a whole. The league, clubs and players union all acknowledge zero tolerance when it comes to racism. Yet, the issues remain of racial slurs like that made by Vardy as well as documented issues of racial abuse by fans against black players or by players against other players of different ethnicities. In February 2015, soccer fans of the Chelsea club were accused of pushing an opposing fan who was black. There were also chants, “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”
Vardy’s level of discipline might be due in part to his value as a goal scorer to Leicester City. While his actions were caught on tape, there was no hint that he would be cut. The owners have not spoken publicly about the incident aside from the statement issued by the team.
Will the fine and cultural sensitivity classes help Vardy become more culturally sensitive? It is hard to say, but it is hard to believe that these issues will end. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.