Controversy around football pundit’s racist joke continues: Legend Edgar Davids weighs in

Johan Derksen and Hans Groenendijk
Johan Derksen (L.) with Hans Groenendijk at the latter's book premiere. 16 April 2014Photo by Jasper Joosten for Hans GroenendijkWikimedia CommonsCC-BY

Dutch footballing legend Edgar Davids appeared on Studio Sport on Sunday and spoke about how he supports the men and woman’s Netherlands football teams decision to boycott Veronica Inside after controversial comments made by one of the show's panelist, Johan Derksen. His comments followed a decision by the Dutch players on the male and female teams released a statement on Friday saying that they would no longer participate in interviews with Veronica Inside after panellist Derksen made a racist joke at the expense of civil rights activist and musician Akwasi.

The rapper gave a passionate speech at the June 1 Black Lives Matter rally in Amsterdam where he metaphorically suggested kicking someone if he saw them dressed up in blackface as Zwarte Piet. Veronica Inside showed a photo of a man in blackface holding up a sign that said, "Zwarte Piet Lives Matter," to which Derksen questioned whether or not the man was really Akwasi in disguise. Rumors published on Monday suggested Veronica Inside might have no advertising breaks on Monday night's program after a spate of advertisers pulled out over Derksen's lack of remorse.

Davids claims that the media should be held accountable just like athletes are. “It gets said a lot that athletes should lead by example, but that is also the case for the media, and they have an even stronger example, they are responsible for what information they feed to the public”. He disagrees with the suggest that that players should sit down on the program to discuss the matter with Derksen on the air.

“This is not the first time. This has been going on for three, four years. It has been discussed many times and, if it has still not gotten through to him, then there are consequences,” Davids said. In the past, Derksen has likened Amsterdam politician Sylvana Simons to a monkey, and has repeatedly disparaged people of Moroccan descent, Turkey, and the LGBT community.

There have been many negative reactions to the statement brought out by Netherlands players with many saying that the players were overreacting. Upon seeing some of these messages, Davids said, “Whenever we talk about racism in the Netherlands, white Dutch people are up in arms, and then I wonder what is it that creates that?”

Liza van der Most, a player for the Dutch women's team, also spoke on the show, saying, “We were on board quickly as we had already gotten sick of the comments and the silence."

Van der Most was born in Colombia with a Colombian mother and has said to have encountered racism in football “There have been moments where I have heard comments in football and I have said, 'Well hey I am here too,' and then the reply is, 'Yeah but you’re different.' And that frustrates me even more because, No, I am not different. The only difference is that you have gotten to know me because we play on the same team”. 

Opinion maker Valentijn Driessen wrote in his column in De Telegraaf that he wanted to see Georginio Wijnaldum should make an appearance on Veronica Inside to discuss the issue with Derksen. Driessen is a prominent guest on the show.

Driessen explained why he thinks that would be beneficial.”Tell your story. Let people get to know it, give them a view of what racism is, confront the viewers with examples and show them how much pain it causes and how many children suffer because of it”.

Driessen explained why he thinks Georginio Wijnaldum is the person to do that. “It is a heavy-duty, a hard task, but a personality like Wijnaldum has the weight for that, he has the body language, the status and he can handle a responsibility like that. The responsibility handled to people of any colour: A responsibility to fight racism”.