Ref stops La Liga game due to fans’ racist chants at Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams

David Ramos/Getty Images

La Liga's opening weekend was marred by an ugly incident of racism as Sunday's match between Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao was stopped by the referee following abusive chants aimed at Athletic's Iñaki Williams.

Williams is Athletic's first black player in their 118-year history. Born and raised in Bilbao by a Ghanaian father and Liberian mother, Williams has been part of Athletic's system since he was 18. Now 22, he's one of Spain's brightest young talents, having already made over 60 appearances for his club and earning his first cap for Spain in May. 

But he's still black.

Near the 30-minute mark on Sunday, Williams was called for a foul on Isma Lopez, prompting Gijon supporters to hurl racial slurs at him until referee Clos Gomez refused to continue proceedings any further. Several Gijon players attempted to silence their own supporters, and an announcement was made over the PA system reminding fans that racism of any form would not be tolerated, urging them not to join in with the chants.

Spain's history of racist incidents is no secret, and Sporting Gijon have a history of their own. They were previously fined a laughable €3000 for racist and abusive chanting after a 2008 incident involving Getafe winger Joffre Guerrón. Then-president Manuel Vega Arango said at the time, “we want to continue being very proactive and Sporting will always root out any type of racist behaviour. You can't have a policeman for every fan, but we have to try and make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Williams shook off the abuse and provided an assist for Borja Viguera after play continued, but Sporting Gijon won the match, 2-1. It remains to be seen how La Liga will handle this latest racist incident from Gijon's fanbase.