‘Insanely Racist’: Soccer Fans Ripped for Wearing Offensive Blackface Costume to Mimic Legendary Football Player

A group of soccer fans from the Netherlands are facing intense backlash after donning blackface in an attempt to emulate former Dutch soccer star Ruud Gullit at the European Cup in Berlin.

Ruud Gullit, born Rudi Dil in Amsterdam, was the child of a Surinamese father and a Dutch mother. He began playing soccer as a small child before the age of 10 and, throughout his adulthood, played professionally for several football clubs in Europe.

At age 26, Gullit was instrumental in helping the Netherlands team win Euro 1988, beating the Soviet Union in the final. The Netherlands returned to Euro 1992, however, they fell short to Denmark in the semi-finals.

In 1995, Gullit signed to Chelsea where he led the team to an FA Cup win in his first year. This would be Chelsea’s first major title in 26 years. The following year, he was named Chelsea Football Club’s player-manager.

Outside of being a professional player, Guillit had a career as a manager for several teams. He also dabbled in music, charting No. 3 on the Dutch Top 40 with his anti-apartheid song, “South Africa.”

Throughout his career, Gullit was undeniably a legend in his home country, so during the Euro 2024 opening match against Poland on June 16, a few fans decided to pay homage to the football great by painting their faces black and wearing deadlock wigs. To drive the point home, they also sported orange replica Gullit jerseys to commemorate the Netherlands’ Euro 1988 title.

It didn’t take long for photographs of the fans to go viral. Many accused Gullit’s supporters of crossing the line from flattery to flat-out racism.

For centuries, blackface has invoked a racist, painful, and deeply offensive history. The practice is believed to date back more than 200 years, according to research compiled by The Associated Press. However, many once considered blackface minstrelsy as a form of entertainment.

In the 1830s, white people would darken their faces to caricatures of Black men and women. The performances were meant to perpetuate stereotypes against Black people. The Jim Crow laws’ name derived from a character portrayed by blackface performer Thomas Dartmouth Rice, who claimed his act “Jump, Jim Crow” (or “Jumping Jim Crow”) drew inspiration from a person in bondage he once saw.

Netherlands Soccer Fans (L) Slammed for Wearing Blackface to Honor Soccer Legend Ruud Gullit (R) During the Euro 2024 Match
Dutch soccer fans paint their faces and don wigs (left) Ruud Gullit (right) at the Euro 2024 Poland vs. Netherlands match in Berlin. (Photos: @@HennythiingGoes / X ; VI Images via Getty Images)

In the Netherlands, the Christmas character “Black Pete” has been at the center of controversy for years. “Zwarte Piet,” which is the Dutch translation of “Black Pete,” has been frequently seen at Christmas festivals and on television across the European country. In keeping in line with Dutch tradition, the character, who is wearing full blackface, works as an assistant and gives candies and gifts to children during Christmas time.

While the Black Lives Matter movement grew across the U.S. in 2020, the Netherlands also began to reevaluate its loyalty to “Black Pete.” Some municipalities and school boards in the Netherlands decided to stop featuring the figure in their annual celebration.

On June 16, a social media user shared what appeared to be a screenshot of the fans who were dressed as Gullit. The account pushed back against the argument that the fans faces were “painted orange.”

“My replies have obviously been crazy just wanted to stop the argument that they’re painted orange. Look at the difference in complexion from their face to their hands. No matter the shade, skin colour is not a costume,” the person wrote on X.

Other X users joined in ripping the Netherlands for their seemingly racist traditions. “There are many things I love about the Netherlands, but the INSANELY RACIST costumes are not one of them,” one person tweeted. “In my year there, I saw casual Blackface, Yellowface, Brownface; literally any horrifically offensive stereotype you can think of: worn by white ppl as a costume, painted up.”

The fan, who is a white woman, also revealed that while living in the Netherlands she witnessed her Black friend be called a racial slur.

“My friend got called the N slur casually while just biking on the street minding her own business,” she said. “I’d see people who were most likely immigrants from Syria or other Arabic speaking countries be treated worse than me when THEY were locals and spoke the language!”

One fan stated, “The Dutch will never beat the racist allegations.” While another added, “Black face is always derogatory idc. If this part of your culture, then your culture is RACIST. You can pay homage without it!”

Even Dutch nationals were embarrassed by the actions of the Netherlands’ fans.

“As a Dutch person I hope he’s painted himself orange like others did but this sh— is so outdated and tiring,” the fan wrote. “I don’t understand why they even let them into the stadium. ‘Say no to racism’ but allow people with blackface into the stadium?”

As far as the match itself, the Netherlands defeated Poland 2-1. Next they will take on France on June 21.

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