FC Bayern discussion with experts

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A year of 'Reds against Racism' - how can FC Bayern further develop its initiative? President Herbert Hainer discussed this with experts Jennifer Danquah and Sascha Chaimowicz, as well as Viviane Asseyi, Serge Gnabry and Demond Greene. A frank, self-critical, learning-oriented and constructive discussion.


Sascha Chaimowicz: You’re celebrated coaches and athletes. What experiences have you had with racism in your life?
Asseyi: "I thank God that I personally have never actually been confronted with this issue. But I know many people to whom it has happened. I don't wish a situation like that on anyone. My attitude is: Of course everyone is different - but we’re still all human beings. I think everyone can help everyone. We can't change every person - but we can implement lots of things to bring about a change in society, to change people's mentality and attitude. That's where we all have to help together."

Greene: "Fortunately, I’ve also not had any personal experience of this - at least not on the basketball court. Privately, however, I have a story that still haunts me today: It was a good 20 years ago when a boy of maybe six or seven years old said to his mother in the pedestrian zone: 'Look, there's an N*!' I was so flabbergasted at that moment that I couldn't react at all. Often racism comes from the parents, that's where you have to start, I think, and counteract it in the schools and sports clubs, for example.”

Gnabry: "That's interesting, because I personally had a few negative experiences when I was young - but I didn't let it get to me at the time. Over the years, you become more aware of racism. When Leroy Sané and Ilkay Gündogan were abused during our international against Serbia, it affected us as a team and really got to me. I think it's always helpful when people try to put themselves in the shoes of the person affected - then you quickly realise how much it affects the other person. Much more than many people think.”


Chaimowicz: Ms Danquah, there are people who ask themselves what they’re actually still allowed to say and what not. Where does racism begin?
Danquah: "There are different levels of racism: the structural, the institutional and the individual, which also describes so-called everyday racism. The question 'Where are you from?' or paying a black person the compliment 'You speak good German' are examples from everyday life: The compliment suggests that black people can’t simultaneously be German and thus cannot speak the German language without making mistakes. There are also different degrees of racist acts. Openly racist acts of violence against people who are not read as white are certainly a different degree to questioning where someone comes from in certain situations. But both have the same underlying structure."

Hainer: "I'd like to follow up on that: when I ask someone where they come from, it means I’m genuinely interested in the person and just that - where they're from."

Danquah: "It really always depends on the context of the question. If we’ve been talking for a long time and it fits into the discussion, it can be okay. But if it's the very first question, it has a different effect. Whose family tree is it necessary to find out about here - and why, actually?"  

Chaimowicz: Mr Hainer, some people are of the opinion that athletes should concentrate on their sport instead of taking a political stance. As president, how do you view your athletes speaking out publicly on this issue?
"I think it’s exemplary and important. Unfortunately, racism is on the rise in our society, and I have zero understanding for that. We want to create awareness in our society with 'Reds against Racism' and with this round table and show that the most important thing must be that all people are equal. I think it's terrific when our sportsmen and sportswomen have the courage to speak out and I'm very grateful to them for that."


Chaimowicz: Ms Asseyi, you grew up in France and came to Germany last summer. Is racism talked about differently there than it is here?
"In my eyes, a big difference is that Germans talk more about this issue. There are also campaigns in France, but often only when something along these lines has happened. In Germany, people talk about it more consistently. I think that's good, because when we stop talking about something, it gets forgotten. A discussion session like today is a good example of how to get the issue firmly implanted in people's minds. FC Bayern is a great role model for all clubs around the world.”


Chaimowicz: Mr Hainer, does impetus like that perhaps also come from FC Bayern's history?
"Absolutely. The fight against discrimination is anchored in our DNA, and it has to be. In our Jewish president Kurt Landauer and his predecessor Angelo Knorr, who was arrested because of his homosexuality, we had two formative figures in our club history who were persecuted and stigmatised. When Viviane just said that we generally talk more about issues like racism in Germany, in my opinion it's also related to our past. That's important, because we all have a responsibility to ensure that the crimes of the Nazi era are not repeated. That has to be in people's daily consciousness. That's where we as FC Bayern also see ourselves as having a responsibility."

Chaimowicz: What goals are you striving for with "Reds against Racism"?
"We want to create an attitude whereby many aspects that Ms Danquah just mentioned become even more a part of people's consciousness - for us at the club, for our fans and in society as a whole. Ostracism must not be tolerated."


Chaimowicz: Ms Danquah, does an initiative like this change anything?
"Solidarity in society is very important. For people to stand up and say: 'It can't go on like this!' That's why it's important to adopt a stance. Since FC Bayern enjoys a lot of attention all over the world, it sends a very strong signal if it uses its resources for this issue. In accordance with the message: 'We are united as a club against racism!' At the same time, it’s also necessary to look inwards: How can we optimise our structures, what can we do to tackle racism inside the club as well? We should take a two-pronged approach: The external and internal effects are not mutually exclusive.”

Hainer: "That’s a very interesting point you raise. Unfortunately, we also had this issue on our campus. That's why I'm firmly convinced that you have to keep a close eye on things and not take everything for granted. It must be about motivating people so that their attitude comes intrinsically from them. No one is immune to the possibility of something happening. We have to deal with this discourse permanently."


Chaimowicz: What lessons has the club learned from what happened on campus?
“We have to be even more precise about the values we stand for as a club - also internally. I'm looking at myself in that respect. We can still optimise many things. In the meantime, we've distributed a code of conduct for our coaches that clearly expresses our values. We've also worked on a number of things, including workshops on racism with external consultants - and that's why we’re very interested in your advice, Ms Danquah. We want to integrate this attitude in our organisation so that it works by itself, because it can't be imposed from above. Everybody has to have their own sensor, so that they stand up when something happens and say: 'That's not right, what you just said or did, you're contradicting my deepest convictions.'"

Chaimowicz: Serge Gnabry, how does it feel when your own club is so dedicated to confronting the issue of racism, what goes through your mind?
"I see it as a very nice sign when your own club champions diversity like that. In our dressing room we have players from lots of different cultures, we stick together no matter where someone comes from. The way FC Bayern, with its entire structure and all its employees, is leading the way with 'Reds against Racism' gives me a good feeling. I think it's nice and important that the club wants to raise awareness on this issue."


Chaimowicz: Mr Hainer, can you imagine an amendment to the statutes?
Hainer: "Yes, definitely. In fact, it’s already been prepared. It’s important to us that we don't give discrimination a millimetre of leeway, which is why we’ve drawn up a comprehensive and detailed wording in our statute commission that is absolutely and utterly directed against racism. I hope and am confident that this passage will be adopted by our members at the next Annual General Meeting. I think it’s important that we draw attention to this issue with 'Reds against Racism' – that’s why we want to consistently fill this initiative with content and take the next steps overall as a club in this matter. It's about never losing sight of racism. We are resolutely determined to continue confronting this issue."

The full interview can be read (in German) in the March issue of the FC Bayern members' magazine '51'.

Sascha Chaimowicz, broadcaster and author, was born in Munich in 1984. After completing his studies at the German School of Journalism, he first worked for the magazine "NEON". In 2016, he moved to "Zeit Magazin", where he has been editor-in-chief since 2020.

Jennifer Danquah is conducting research and completing her doctorate at the interface of adult education and the critique of racism at the University of Würzburg. In addition, the 27-year-old offers seminars and workshops critical of racism. 

As part of International Weeks Against Racism, FC Bayerns want to further develop the content of its 'Reds against Racism' campaign.

Click here for information on the Reds against Racism campaign:

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