Some of the members of Finnish youth basketball teams were subjected to racist treatment during the Nord Cup tournament held in Tallinn, Estonia, over the weekend of 20 May; the Finnish teams decided to withdraw from the tournament after the incident.
A few Finnish junior basketball teams were to take part in the Nord Cup tournament in Tallinn over the weekend. The tournament has divisions from U10 up to under 19, and in addition to the Estonian and Finnish teams, Latvians and Lithuanians were to participate as well, the Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, writes.
Finland’s Munkkiniemi Kisapojat travelled to Tallinn with two teams. However, according to the newspaper, the first game trip of the young basketball players took an ugly turn on the first day.
“In a match between the U12 boys of the Helsinki club and the Estonian Kohila SK, MuKi players and coaches were subjected to racist behaviour by the opposing team’s players,” the newspaper says. MuKi is an abbreviation of the team’s name; Munkkiniemi is a neighbourhood in Helsinki, “kisapojat” means “competing boys”.
According to Antti Pesonen, the coach of the MuKi senior team, at first, a dark-skinned player of his team was insulted with a racist derogatory word on the free throw line. After that, an Asian player was addressed with a racist slur.
Withdrawing both teams from the tournament
“Even after the match, in the handshake queue, some of the Estonian players had deliberately refused to shake hands with MuKi’s dark-skinned assistant coaches,” the newspaper said, adding that it later emerged the inappropriate shouting at the Asian player had already started in the warm-ups before the game.
The coaching staff of the Finnish teams brought the incident to the attention of the Estonian coach who ordered his players to apologise – which they did. The inappropriate behaviour was not questioned, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
The newspaper says that the organisers of the event had then decided to ban the offenders for one match; however, Pesonen responded that this decision was against the rules of the International Basketball Association.
After discussing what had happened with the players’ parents, the Munkkiniemi Kisapojat decided to withdraw both teams from the tournament. “It’s very unlikely that we’d come back here,” Manne Pyykkö, the head coach of MuKi’s U12 boys, told Helsingin Sanomat. “I’m sure we’ll look into other options.”
The organisers of the Nord Cup issued a statement on 21 May, apologising for the incident, saying they condemn the behaviour of the Estonian players. “The boys of SK Kohila reacted to an argument with the MuKi boys with racist insults. We’re drawing the necessary conclusions and do everything in our power that something like this wouldn’t happen again,” the organisers said.
“There’s no justification to treating someone mockingly and making them feel inferior and there’s no place for it in sports or in the society. We’re apologising to the MuKi boys and coaches for the treatment they were subjected to.”
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