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Choosing to be a fan means choosing to be better

Being a supporter means changing yourself and being changed.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Torino - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

We all chose to be here. If you’re reading this story, it’s because you chose to click on the headline and run your eyes across the screen. If you decide to comment, it’s because you chose to interact with what I’ve written here. You are under no compunction to do any of these things. If you choose not to do them, you won’t be punished. If you choose not to do them, you will not lose money or time or social standing. The stakes do not exist outside of this community.

Within this community, though, it’s usually worth reading the story that you clicked on. If you’re a lurker who hasn’t made an account here or if you just prefer not to comment, you still want to read the stories to help contextualize your hobby—Fiorentina—with regards to how it’s being discussed here. If you’re a commenter, you want to read the story to better engage with your peers about the content of the story. However, you still chose to be here.

By now, you all know what happened after the game on Sunday. Trevor’s written about it with much more depth and with much greater thought than I can or will here. To briefly recap the events, though, as reporters interviewed Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who is Black, several Fiorentina fans made monkey noises at him.

Team owner Rocco Commisso and headman Joe Barone immediately condemned these fans, promising to find them and permanently ban them from the stadium. Barone went straight to the visitors’ changing room to apologize. The club released a strong statement promising action and police involvement. Those are the right steps, but we need to see follow through.

I’d like to bring this back to my initial comments about choice. Much like reading this website, you choose to be a Fiorentina supporter. Sure, maybe you’ve felt some sort of pressure to take up the colors, but, at the end of the day, this is a thing that you do as a hobby and that has no bearing on the rest of your life.

This is part of how you choose to define yourself: as part of a larger community of people that shares the same goals. You subsume your individuality to that larger group, trading your personal characteristics for shared ones. That allows you to share joy and excitement and despair in common with others. You develop an emotional connection that you can’t find anywhere else.

By choosing to trade some of your individual qualities for membership in this emotional network, though, you, as an individual, take on some of the qualities of the group. And if other members of the group demonstrate negative qualities, the entire group takes on those qualities. You, as part of the group, take on those negative qualities. Put another way, when a few Fiorentina supporters racially accost someone, that stain spreads across the fanbase. That stain touches you.

This is why we cannot try to ignore our fellow fans when they do something like this. They have contaminated all of us. The only way to decontaminate ourselves is to remove them from our community. That’s a stadium ban or a ban from this site, yes, but it’s more than that. It is an active commitment to rooting out these contaminants and ensuring that they never return. It is performing surgery on ourselves and removing our own tumors before they metastasize and consume us.

There is another way to decontaminate ourselves that is less reactive. Instead of waiting with bated breath for the next incident (because there will always be a next incident), we can actively seek out these agents of contamination. We can try to educate them on what they’re doing and why it’s wrong. If they refuse to engage in good faith, we can and must remove them before they do harm.

If you believe that racism is unacceptable, you must overwhelm these bad actors. You cannot wait for Fiorentina or the legal authorities to step in and sweep it up, leaving you free to enjoy calcio again. You must choose meet the contamination at its source and scrub it out. The alternative is choosing to be part of a racist fan base. And fuck being part of a racist fan base.