Finally: FC Bayern fly the (rainbow) flag
“Taking a stand is particularly significant considering that two important persons in FC Bayern’s history were not safe from discrimination and exclusion in their day. Founding member and vice-captain Wilhelm Focke (1900-1903) and former president Dr Angelo Knorr (1906-1913) were both gay.”FC Bayern press release
Overall, posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were liked more than 100,000 times. Regrettably, there were also thousands of comments containing hate speech. The German magazine STERN called it a shitstorm – I would not go as far as that, seeing that a strong majority supported the action of FC Bayern. But it cannot be denied that FC Bayern, being a part of the football world, does have a lot of homophobic fans, too.
The negative reactions should convince those in charge that making a stand was the right thing to do. There is no space for homophobia, sexism, racism, antisemitism and generally any kind of discrimination at FC Bayern. Fans who don’t share this view are kindly invited to go looking for a different club.
In the last years some football clubs such as Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund made clear political statements against xenophobia and racism and even explicitly against the political party AfD. Many Bayern fans, myself included, would have liked for Bayern to do the same.
A few cryptic messages aside, that did not happen.
Addendum July 16: I just love when FC Bayern destroy my blog entry. Apparently, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said the following in an interview for SID:
„We want to be clear: FC Bayern stand against racism, against violence and for openness, for tolerance.“ For instance, the club had supported Christopher Street Day in Munich as well as the fan club.
Not everybody likes this commitment though. „I have received some nasty letters asking why Bayern would do this“, Rummenigge acknowledges. „But those go directly to the shredder. We are a cosmopolitan club. It is up to us to champion these values.“Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman (SID)
The club claims it was good enough that everyone in Germany knew Bayern was against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia and therefore did not have to make explicit statements on AfD. FC Bayern want to be judged by actions, not words, and point out their undoubtedly positive commitment to the memory of Kurt Landauer and for under-age refugees and asylum seekers in Munich.
I can comprehend this position, but not entirely. In my opinion, as Germany’s largest sports club, one of the country’s identity-establishing powers and role model, FC Bayern have the responsibility to speak out on urgent issues. If the club could do so on homophobia, they must be able to do the same when it comes to the shift to the right in Germany and to climate change. The recent post for CSD has shown how many homophobic Bayern supporters there are. I’m afraid there might be similar tendencies regarding nationalism and racism. Thus, it would be a significant service if these supporters could learn from their club that there is no space for their convictions at FC Bayern.
„Leave me alone with politics on the football ground!“ and „There is no space for politics in football!“
Those who think so don’t realise that commercialised, omnipresent football, which influences all parts of society, has long since been a part of politics. Football is used by politics (see Merkel, Schröder, Kohl at the national team, Söder and Seehofer at Bayern). Football itself is a political stakeholder (e.g. when „buying“ World Cups or with large stadium building projects). Football is „politics“ in the original meaning: social intervention to regulate coexistence. Shaping and realising objectives in private and in public space is politics. Of course, FC Bayern are part of it.
Therefore, FC Bayern should continue to make political and social statements, based on their values and moral principles. This is what FC Bayern stand for.
People acting for Bayern have a duty to respect the club’s historically evolved values and basic moral stance of the club and to support them.
These values and this stance, besides success in sports, are the pillars Bayern stand upon. Players may come and go, sporting success can be planned to a certain degree but will always be unreliable and ephemeral. Looking back, what will remain of FC Bayern? Granted, sporting history, but also a notion of what this club stood and still stands for:
tolerance and freedom – starting out as a meeting point for Schwabing’s art scene.
cosmopolitanism and hospitality – the club was open for international influences from the start.
Yet another value is a sense of family, including current and former players and employees of the club as well as the active fans and members. Solidarity with the weak and vulnerable, focussing on the club’s hometown Munich, also informs the club’s ethics. This can be seen in projects such as „FC Bayern Hilfe e.V. “ (FC Bayern Aid), „Dominik-Bunner-Stiftung“ (Dominik Brunner foundation) and „Dominik-Brunner-Haus der Johanniter“ (Knights of St. John’s Dominik Brunner House), the commitment for under-age refugees and asylum seekers in Munich and numerous rescue matches for traditional clubs in trouble.
The slogan mia san mia – co-opted by marketing as it may be – epitomises Bayern’s confident understanding of their values, also when meeting opposition. We are who we are and stand by that.
Why am I writing all this? Because I wanted to show how Bayern’s value-based stance has grown historically. It is not an artificial image imposed by some marketing agency but rather the club’s true DNA.
The club’s representatives need to be aware of this if they are to understand why, for instance, the partnership with the state of Qatar is perceived so negatively by many fans. Despite all the reassurances („critical dialogue“) business relations with Qatar are Bayern’s cardinal sin. Championing human rights, as Bayern did with their women’s team in Doha, is the right thing to do. It would be even better to do the same (hopefully soon) with the much more prominent male pros. But it would have been best never to get involved with such a state. A state that bought a major football event via means of corruption and has significant deficits when it comes to human rights, notwithstanding gulf states around Qatar having even more. Business relations with China are also in contradiction to many of Bayern’s values. These relations are rarely criticised – maybe China, a state not complying with the rule of law, is “too big to fail“? At least now that FC Bayern are an actor on the Chinese market, it is commendable that they initiate a transition of values via scholarships at Chinese universities.
With their statements, the illumination of the Arena and the rainbow corner flags, FC Bayern have made an important stand for tolerance and against discrimination, and rightly so. Here’s hoping that in the future there will be even more courage and conviction to continue to fly the flag when it comes to other urgent socio-political issues.
The text was first published in the original German version on Christian’s own Blog “Am Ende des Tages” (without subheadings). We are grateful he gave us his authorisation to publish his opinion on our site. The English version was translated by Roger.