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Netherlands fans accused of wearing blackface in tribute to Ruud Gullit

During their opening Euro 2024 match against Poland, a group of Netherlands football fans sparked controversy after being accused of wearing blackface while dressing up as Ruud Gullit, the iconic Dutch footballer.

The incident, which occurred during the Netherlands’ 2-1 Euro 2024 victory over Poland, has reignited debates about cultural sensitivity and racism in sports fandom.

Ruud Gullit, a celebrated figure in Dutch football, is known not only for his skill on the field but also for his distinctive appearance, characterised by his dark skin and dreadlocked hair.

the Netherlands fans accused of wearing blackface whilst paying homage to Ruud Gullit at Euro 2024.

In an attempt to pay homage to Gullit, several Dutch fans painted their faces black and wore wigs mimicking his hairstyle. While their intentions might have been to honor the former Netherlands star, the act has been widely condemned as an example of blackface – a practice with deep roots in racist traditions.

What is “blackface”?

Blackface has a long and painful history, particularly in Western countries.

Originating in the 19th century, white performers would darken their skin with makeup to caricature Black people, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and reinforcing systemic racism.

Despite widespread condemnation and efforts to educate the public about its offensive nature, instances of blackface continue to surface, often under the guise of tribute or humor.

Blackface has often been used to make insensitive stereotypes towards other races, something which the Netherlands fans at euro 2024 claim they were not aiming to do despite claims that they wore blackface.

The incident involving the Netherlands fans supposedly wearing blackface quickly gained attention on social media, with photos and videos spreading across various platforms. Critics argue that regardless of the fans’ intentions, their actions are insensitive and perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes.

Supporters of the fans claim that they were merely showing their admiration for Gullit and did not mean to offend anyone.

Ruud Gullit himself addressed the controversy, expressing his discomfort with the fans’ actions.

In a statement, Gullit acknowledged their enthusiasm for his legacy but emphasized the importance of understanding the historical and cultural implications of blackface.

He called for greater awareness and education on the issue to prevent such incidents in the future.

In response to the backlash, the Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) issued a statement condemning the actions of the fans and reaffirming its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within the sport.

The KNVB also announced plans to launch an awareness campaign aimed at educating fans about the impact of racism and the importance of respectful behaviour.

This controversy serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges in addressing racism and promoting cultural sensitivity within sports and society at large. While the fans may have intended to celebrate Ruud Gullit, their actions underscore the need for greater awareness and understanding of historical context and the potential harm of certain behaviours.

As things stand, there has been no legal action taken against the Dutch fans who were accused of wearing blackface, but we can assume that, given the backlash it has caused, they will not be quick to try and honour their former player again anytime soon!