Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Athletic Bilbao's Basques Policy

(Cross-Posting from my Quora answer to the question- "Is Athletic Bilbao's policy of recruitng only Basque players in breach of racial discrimination laws?")

From my understanding, it probably is illegal but it is difficult to prove so and has never been challenged in a court of law. Moreover, recently the definition of Basque as viewed by Athletic Club has become more and more fluid and it has made it doubly difficult for anyone to prove that they discriminate specially on racial basis. Also, there is the simple fact that this is an unwritten policy and hence such "bias" though extant, is difficult to prove via a lawsuit. 

Also there are a few point I would like to make in this context. 

  1. The policy is not racist for the simple fact that it is not based on notion of Basque superiority over others. They view themselves as just what they are and want their football club to represent their identity. They don't consider people who don't have this identity as inferiors. In fact in a poll around 76% of Athletic supporters said they will prefer to be relegated to second division- obviously an inferior league- than have non-Basque players in their teams. Also, they recently fielded Jonás Ramalho, a Black player in the first team. He qualifies because his mother is a Basque. So they aren't against a particular skin color either. 
  2. Apart from players who are Basque from parentage, they also consider players of other nationality provided they had moved in a Basque country at a very young age and hence their development took place in a Basque region. So their policy is not strictly nationalistic either.
  3. They often recruit non-Basque coaches and other technical staff. So it is difficult to prove discrimination there. 
  4. Based on above examples, a case can be made that they are more nationalist than racist. And there is a minor issue that since there is no such country as Basque country, it would be difficult to prove nationalistic discrimination as well.

Generally people have accepted them for what they are and let them be. Their success in La Liga (only team apart from Real Madrid and Barcelona to have never been relegated) is hardly grudged because of their uniqueness among other things.

Sid Lowe: Ramalho helping dispel longstanding myth at Athletic Bilbao 
Are Athletic Bilbao playing by the rules?

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