The theme of the European Championship, which begins tomorrow, is racism. (To be fair to Poland and the Ukraine, the themes of international soccer over the last five years have been racism and goal-line technology. UEFA has made roughly the same progress on the two.) The BBC kicked it off with their sensationalist Panorama doc on the nationalist Ultras. The families of two black English players announced they'd be staying away, while Sol Campbell warned fans to stay home. Italy's Mario Balotelli said he will walk off the pitch if he is the target of racial abuse—either that, or physically kill the abuser.
UEFA President Michel Platini held his press conference yesterday, and with all this horrible stuff hanging overhead, he decided to threaten Balotelli.
"It's a yellow card. It's not a player - Mr Balotelli - who's in charge of refereeing.
"It's the referee who takes these decisions. Referees can finish the game. They have this power in case of racism."
It's a fine sentiment—Our officials are prepared and will be in control—but poorly expressed. Since European soccer has taken so much heat about being slow to act on fan racism, it's not savvy PR to essentially tell players "Don't worry about it, guy." If you wanted to cast doubt on your organization's commitment to actually combating racist abuse from the stands, I can't think of a better way than to threaten the victims if they react.
Oh, Mario. Even when he doesn't do a thing, only talks about doing a thing, he still manages to start a thing.