Column: Thuram takes broad view on Blatter storm

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“The fact that it’s Mr. Blatter saying such things shows that there’s real work to do,” Thuram said. “I honestly think he must have said what he said because often, when you aren’t a victim of racist acts, you don’t understand their impact.”

Blatter was caught off guard by the storm his comments generated, concentrated in Britain, where the sports minister called for his resignation. It took him a couple of days for the penny to drop. Clunk. And when he eventually apologized to those he offended, Blatter still seemed shaken that anyone could have thought badly of him.

“I found myself pushed into a corner over very, I would say, unfortunate words I have used and this I deeply, deeply regret,” Blatter told the BBC. “It hurts and I’m still hurting because I couldn’t expect or just envisage such a reaction.”

John Barnes, like Thuram, also took a broader view of Blatter’s comments. As a player, the former star for Liverpool and England had bananas and monkey chants thrown at him. Opponents called him a derogatory term to his face. Barnes said Blatter’s remarks were “wrong,” but he suggested they were symptomatic, too.

“We are all racist to a certain extent. We all make presumptions about other people based on their color, culture or ethnicity in variable degrees,” Barnes told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “Football can do nothing about getting rid of racism. Society has to _ through education and people understanding why they feel the way they do.”

Thuram said people must unlearn their prejudices. That requires education, talking. His Quai Branly show is designed to show how such prejudices were built up bit-by-bit over the centuries, he explained.

“The majority of people don’t understand the impact of racism because they don’t live it themselves, which is why racism continues to exist in our societies because only a minority of people suffer it,” he said. Of Blatter, he added: “After this polemic, I think he’ll be a lot more sensitive to all this.”

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at twitter.com/johnleicester

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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