Peruvian Sportscaster's Racist Comments Trigger Outrage Across Two Countries

Pantallazo del programa ConButters de Willax Televisión.

Screenshot from the television program “ComButters” from Willax Television.

Statements made by a sportscaster have sparked controversy and revived a debate over racial discrimination in Peru.

On June 14, while discussing the pending football match between Peru and Ecuador for the 2018 World Cup qualification, Phillip Butters, the host of a TV program called “ComButters”, referred first to the Afro-Ecuadorian players, and then centered specifically on one of them, Caicedo, calling him a monkey and a gorilla.

His comments, shown in the video below, drew an immediate reaction from the Afro-Peruvian community, followed by a series of statements from the Peruvian government and the Ecuadorian government.

Con los bolivianos en Lima, no hay mayor problema. […] Después vamos a jugar contra Ecuador en Quito. Los ecuatorianos no son negros, son cocodrilos de altura. Tienen bíceps en los párpados hermano. Si le hacen una prueba de ADN a Caicedo y no es humano, es un mono. Un gorila.

With the Bolivians in Lima, there's no big problem. […] Afterwards, we'll play against Ecuador in Quito. The Ecuadorians aren't black, they're mountain crocodiles. They have biceps in their eyelids, brother. If they did a DNA test on Caicedo, he isn't human, he's a monkey. A gorilla.

A wave of opinions followed. There were many demonstrations, in favor and against, across social media and the press.

First tweet: Phillip Butters should apologize! Inexcusable and degrading comments about the Ecuadorian players and every person. For shame!

Reply: I'm sorry to say that it is the opposite, a large part of Peruvians are like him, and this is why he has so many followers. Our ignorance exalts him.

Butters is not homophobic or racist. It seems that you all can't stand @Phill_Butters because he thinks differently than you all.

Afro-Peruvian grassroot organizations and activists signed a press release titled “United against racism and discrimination!”, which not only condemned the sportscaster's statements, but also underlined the systemic racism that the Afro-Peruvian population experiences. It also criticized the show's guests on the day Butters made the comments, Carlos Navarro and Omar Ruiz de Somocurcio, for not challenging the declarations of their host.

The group made reference to the cultural diversity of Peruvian society and demanded compliance with the Peruvian constitution's second article:

La constitución política de nuestro país refiere, en su artículo segundo, inciso segundo, que toda persona tiene derecho a ‘igualdad ante la ley, Nadie debe ser discriminado por motivo de origen, raza, sexo, idioma, religión, opinión, condición económica y de cualquier otra índole’. De otro lado, recordemos que la discriminación es un delito tipificado en artículo 323 del código penal.

Our country's constitution mentions, in its second article, second paragraph, that every person has the same right to ‘equality under the law. No one should be discriminated against because of origin, race, gender, preferred language, religion, opinion, economic position or any other factor.’ Also, lets remember that discrimination is a criminal offense in article 323 of the penal code.

They also added:

En diversos medios de comunicación, la burla, la mofa, cosificación y animalización de la población afrodescendiente es sistemática e impune. En tal sentido, expresamos nuestro más enérgico rechazo y hacemos un llamado a las instancias correspondientes del Estado peruano a fin de garantizar el derecho a la igualdad y no discriminación de la población afroperuana.

Through different kinds of media, taunting, mocking, objectification and animalization of people of African descent is systematic and unpunished. In that sense, we express our most forceful rebuff and we call out the responsible Peruvian state institutions to finally guarantee the right to equality and no discrimination against the Afro-Peruvian population.

The group's statement also emphasized the need to create national plans to fight discrimination and strengthen the organizations that currently work on the issue.

Butters’ comments and the swift reaction of the Afro-Peruvian movement also prompted statements from different government sectors. The Peruvian Federation of Football described the comments against the Ecuadorian players as unacceptable and discriminatory, while noting that they are part of a pact against racism together with the Ministry of Culture and other sports-related organizations in the country. The minister of culture also spoke about the comments:

Ante los denigrantes comentarios del periodista Phillip Butters sobre nuestros hermanos ecuatorianos en su programa “Combutters”, emitido el día miércoles 14 de junio en el canal Willax TV, el Ministerio de Cultura:

- Rechaza toda manifestación racista en perjuicio de cualquier persona o grupo de personas.

- Recuerda que el periodismo y los medios de comunicación cumplen un rol fundamental en transmitir valores a la ciudadanía.

- Recuerda a la opinión pública que el Ministerio ha firmado un pacto contra el racismo junto a la Federación Peruana de Fútbol (FPF), la Asociación Deportiva de Fútbol Profesional del Perú (ADFP), el Instituto Peruano del Deporte (IPD) y todos los clubes profesionales e invoca a la prensa y a la sociedad a sumarse al rechazo de todo acto de discriminación.

En el Mes de la Cultura Afroperuana, el Ministerio de Cultura reitera la necesidad de erradicar estas conductas. El racismo no es normal y es inaceptable, hagamos juntos que esto cambie.

iAsí no juega Perú!

Considering sportscaster Philip Butters’ degrading comments about our Ecuadorian brothers made on Wednesday, June 14 on his program “Combutters” for Willax TV, the Minister of Culture:

- Denounces every damaging act of racism aimed at anyone or any group.
– Reminds the press and the media of their fundamental role in spreading values to the citizenship.
– Reminds the public that the Minister signed a pact against racism with the Peruvian Federation of Football, the Peruvian Football Sports Association, the Peruvian Institute of Sport, and all the professional clubs, and calls upon the press and society to join them in rejecting all acts of discrimination.

During Afro-Peruvian Culture Month, the Minister of Culture reiterates the necessity to eradicate these behaviors. Racism is not normal and it is not acceptable, together let's make a change.

That is not how Peru plays!

The outrage reached the Ecuadorian government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an announcement in which they stated their disgust over the sportscaster's statements, labeling them as “deplorable” and said they reveal an “attitude of intolerance and bad journalistic practice”.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno tweeted a message of support to football player Felipe Caicedo, assuring he is someone Ecuador is proud of:

The color of skin is part of the rich diversity of this country. @FelipaoCaicedo, Ecuador is proud of you.
Values, also on the field!

As a result of the pressure from Peru, as well as from the neighboring country, Willax TV channel suspended the “ComButters” program until the host makes a public apology.

However, the sportscaster refuses to apologize, arguing that he is not racist and that the statements are just part of football slang and in no way have racist implications. Butters gave this controversial response on his radio program, where he went on to attack the Ecuadorian minister of culture, Salvador del Solar, calling him “an idiot” for rejecting the racist insults.

Han armado un muñeco, como consecuencia de una conversación pelotera, futbolera coloquial.

Los ecuatorianos a nosotros nos dicen ‘gallinas’ y nosotros les decimos ‘monos'(…). Nosotros con los ecuatorianos tenemos rivalidades históricas, geográficas, políticas, bélicas y futbolísticas.

They have made a travesty out of colloquial football talk.

Ecuadorians call us ‘chickens’ and we call them ‘monkeys’ (…). We have historic geographic, political, military and football rivalries with them.

For his part, footballer Felipe Caicedo expressed gratefulness on Twitter for all the words of support he received. He agreed that Butters does not represent Peru and rejected racism. Furthermore, he confirmed that he plans to sue the sportscaster given his refusal to make a public apology, in order to:

  • Personalizar el delito en busca de una sanción ejemplar.
  • Crear un clima estrictamente deportivo de cara al partido en Quito por Eliminatorias.
  • Make an example out of this personal offense by looking for a suitable punishment.
  • Create a strictly sporting environment regarding the qualifying match in Quito.

In an interview for the media outlet Perú21, Afro-Peruvian journalist and activist Giovanna Carrillo Zegarra shared some thoughts on the role of the media in the normalization of racism in light of this case:

Los medios de comunicación tienen una gran responsabilidad con la sociedad, que es no repetir estereotipos, no transmitirlos, ni replicar acciones racistas y no ser el cobijo perfecto para que los comunicadores o quien tenga un programa de televisión considere que tienen el poder de humillar, animalizar ni discriminar.

The media has a great responsibility in society, which is to not repeat stereotypes, not amplify them, not to repeat racist actions, and not be the perfect refuge for reporters or anyone with a television program who believe they have the right to humiliate, animalize, or discriminate.

The controversy isn't over, but many are hoping that this situation starts a discussion that leads to concrete actions to overcome racial discrimination in Peru.

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