Getting kicked out of a match is something that many fencers have thankfully never experienced. In fencing, the black card is the method that officials use to remove a fencer from competition when they break the code of honor. Severe offences mean an ejection in fencing. While sport is at its heart about good will and good sportsmanship, unfortunate events like ejections do happen.
After the USA Fencing strengthened its protocols on the black card a few weeks ago, it’s been on a lot of people’s minds. Black cards are serious, and they are necessary. Bad behavior or dangerous actions should never be tolerated by the fencing community, or any sport. The new protocols emphasize the seriousness of the black card offense.
With all this thinking about the black card, we started thinking about how ejection plays out in other sports. Events like the Olympics and World Cups have had a fascinating history of players being removed from matches. Fencing has some remarkable stories too.
The black card is the end of the road for an athlete in a competition. It marks the definitive and negative end of competition for a fencer, or for any athlete. It’s not even a loss, though the opponent technically gets a win. A black card is worse than a loss, because it is not a measure of athletic skill or prowess. It’s a demonstration that the athlete could not hold up the code of honor within the sport.
A black card ejects an athlete from competition for egregious behavior.
To be clear, this behavior does not have to be vile or violent. An athlete can get a black card for not showing up to the match on time or for leaving the match early. If they simply stop participating, for any of a number of reasons, they can get a black card.
It’s notable that the black card is not just for athletes. Coaches, spectators, and even referees (in theory) can get a black card and get ejected from a match. If a parent is disruptive, even if it is through overly loud and inappropriate cheering or repeatedly getting too close to the strip during the match and not following a referee’s instruction, they can be ejected from the tournament with a black card.