The very powerful Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has announced that it has launched a full-fledged investigation against American Ryan Harrison after his alleged ‘racial prejudice’ against an opponent during the New York Open tournament. Any probe into such ‘excesses’ that stem from personal vendetta is always welcome, particularly in professional sport where winning is all that matters for everyone, irrespective of the discipline, including in team and individual events. 

It is not whether Harrison had condemned his opponent to such a societal abuse and committed an unpardonable inhuman crime but whether this was an isolated incidence. The fact is that racism in sport has been in existence from times immemorial and has been raising its ugly head every now and then. It lurks in one brazen form or the other and has seeped into every sport known to mankind. 

One does not know if there is a stigma-driven trait behind one’s outbursts but there is certainly an element of ‘complex’ behind such diatribe. Human beings have always believed that there is a natural superiority of some races over others, particularly with regard to the levels of intelligence, adaptability and physical attributes.

Take the classic instance of African-Americans, who were subjected to condemnation and abuse for centuries together. It is a tribute to their obliviousness to constant ‘victimisation’ and the outlandish ‘ghetto’ barbs that they have outgrown this ‘human’ fraud to such an extent that today the best of ‘American’ sportspersons are mostly blacks, be it in American football, basketball, baseball, boxing, rugby or track and field. 

Even Tiger Woods was not spared such a traumatic experience by his former caddie Steve Williams, who did not mince words with his scornful descriptions. Racism became very pronounced, and that much deplorable, when, driven by his ‘Aryan race supremacy’ theory, Adolf Hitler refused to shake hands with African-American Jesse Owens during the 1936 Berlin Games after the American had made a mockery of such beliefs while accomplishing an extraordinary feat that remained an Olympic pinnacle till another black, Carl Lewis, lowered it decades later. 

The Oxford-educated Imran Khan once vented ire at what he termed as the ‘emergence of a white’ powerhouse that was destroying the fabric of the gentleman’s game. He slammed ICC for listening to the ‘bosses’ in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.  

There are myriad such cases where the belief of race superiority (in India there are several instances of caste-bias) destroyed the careers of gifted sportspersons because they belonged to the ‘minority’ races. Sadly, they remain integral to this day. One wonders if ATP can achieve any breakthrough now, although the ban on the original enfant-terrible Illie Nastase for his caustic remarks against Serena Williams’ colour is to be widely welcomed. 

However, a lot more needs to be done in this ‘clean up’ mission. The Australians set a noble precedent when the honour to light the Sydney 2000 Olympic Flame was given to Cathy Freeman, who, by being an Aborigine, was the first Australian indigenous person to be so rewarded. That is ‘equality of the finest order!