- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The NBA’s life ban for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling won swift support in Europe, but it also produced calls for soccer to show similar resolve against racism.

The two most powerful men in soccer - Sepp Blatter, president of international governing body FIFA, and his European counterpart Michel Platini - both voiced approval on Wednesday.

Blatter tweeted: “Sport says no to racism. I fully support @NBA’s decision to ban @LAClippers owner for life after his racist words.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, Platini said: “It is a great decision and I support it completely.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “has not been in his job for a long time, but he has shown great strength by punishing what is unacceptable behavior by one of the owners,” the UEFA president said.

Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million and pressed other team owners to support his desire to make Sterling sell the Clippers.

Patrick Vieira, a 1998 World Cup winner with France, tweeted: “Well done to @NBA, another organisation dealing with racism in exactly the right way. I say again - zero tolerance.”

Overt racism in stadiums has dogged soccer for decades. Last weekend, a Villarreal season-ticket holder threw a banana at Barcelona defender Dani Alves, who is black. Spanish police arrested the man and Villarreal banned him for life from its stadium. Alves picked up the banana and took a bite, provoking a social media campaign against racism in support of the Brazilian player.

Critics have long accused soccer leaders of being too soft on teams with racist fans. To some in Europe, the swift rejection of Sterling by NBA players, executives and owners served only to highlight the lack of resolve by soccer officials.

Retired British NBA player John Amaechi, in a phone interview with the AP, wondered why soccer can’t respond to repeated instances of racial abuse during matches.

“It’s time that we started looking at some of the owners within other parts of sport,” outside the NBA, he said. “They’re exactly the type of plantation mentality people who don’t mind having black people working for them … But God forbid that they want to come up to the big house.”

Amaechi said he doesn’t expect the NBA’s punishment of Sterling will jolt soccer into meaningful change. Blatter’s tweet of support for the NBA was “not enough,” he added.

“If there was a poster-person for the words ‘impotence’ and ‘apathy,’ it would have his face on it,” Amaechi said.

“You know what they’re going to do? They’re going to produce another pretty poster with platitudes plastered all over it. They’re going to produce another campaign that has a black player (standing) next to a white player,” he said. “Nothing substantive.”

Former England and Liverpool winger John Barnes, targeted for racist abuse at the height of his career in the 1980s, said it was unfair to expect soccer to draw lessons from the NBA’s handling of Sterling. He noted the NBA has greater powers over club owners than European soccer leaders have in similar circumstances.

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