FC Bayern in dialogue to stand up against racism

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The struggle for equality and against all forms of exclusion is a daily one - hardly any place in the United States illustrates this as much as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. All over the world, people of colour are exposed to discrimination - all too often also through events in everyday life. That's why FC Bayern initiated a special event at this special museum to raise awareness of the issue and stimulate social discourse as part of its Reds against Racism initiative.

Hainer: "We have a responsibility"

President Herbert Hainer, FC Bayern
President Herbert Hainer during his opening speech at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

"We have a responsibility to stimulate discussions about hate and how we can work together to stop it in our sport and ultimately in society," said FC Bayern president Herbert Hainer in his welcome to the 100 or so guests at the Oprah Winfrey Theatre inside the museum. These controversies are not always easy, but must be conducted, Hainer continued, "because it is necessary to learn from our past and to do everything we can to convey and strengthen togetherness in our world and our society".

As part of a panel discussion, leaders as well as current and former top sportspeople described their experiences with hate and exclusion in two rounds of talks and showed how every individual can stand up for social justice in sport and all areas of society. "We want people to see here at the museum that change is possible," said Damion Thomas. The museum curator was part of the first exchange of ideas alongside DeMaurice Smith (executive director of the National Football League Players Association), Donald Curtis (founder and director of the student organisation SOUL (Student Athletes Organised to Understand Leadership)), and Taj Tashombe (director at the Oakland Athletics baseball team).

Taj Tashombe, Damion Thomas, DeMaurice Smith, Donald Curtis, Herbert Hainer, Stephan Lehmann.
The participants of the first round of talks (l-r.): Taj Tashombe, Damion Thomas, DeMaurice Smith, Donald Curtis, Herbert Hainer and moderator Stephan Lehmann.

Hainer explained that an important part of Reds against Racism is also dealing with one's own employees in workshops. It is not just about showing symbols to the outside world, he said, but actively taking action against racism and discrimination, because it is always about conveying an understanding and approaching the issue authentically. According to the president, social commitment is "part of our club DNA and belongs to our core values".

Kahn: "Racism is not always immediately apparent"

In the second round of talks, Oliver Kahn recalled his time as a player. He stressed how important it is to "fill the role model function" as a sportsman with life in dealing with other people. "In my professional days in the Bundesliga, I witnessed shouts from the stands against foreign players, but often the racism in our society is not always immediately apparent," warned the CEO, who sat on the podium alongside Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann, football player Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens, North Carolina Courage midfielder Brianna Pinto and former Bayern player Gina Lewandowski.

Julian Nagelsmann, Oliver Kahn, Ronnie Stanley, Brianna Pinto and Gina Lewandowski
In the second part, Julian Nagelsmann, Oliver Kahn, Ronnie Stanley, Brianna Pinto and Gina Lewandowski (l-r.) spoke.

"We are role models, people look up to us," said Lewandowski and called for athletes to set an example of tolerant coexistence. Nagelsmann also referred to the responsibility of sport. But the coach also sees in it great opportunities to drive social change: "I'm sure that a team with all its different players from different backgrounds can create something together." The unanimous opinion of all panellists was that sport embodies a sense of community and knows no differences - if this spark is ignited, it can inspire people, bring about change for the better.

On Tuesday, an FC Bayern delegation were guests at the Capitol, where the travelling exhibition "Venerated - Persecuted - Forgotten" was on display: