Thursday, 27 October 2011
Racism Rears Its Ugly Head (And The Daily Mail Ignores It)
In the last couple of weeks racism has reared its ugly head in English football again. Accusations of racial abuse have been made against two of the Premier League’s highest profile players: Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Chelsea captain John Terry. They are alleged to have referred to Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and QPR’s Anton Ferdinand as a ‘nigger’ and a ‘black cunt’ respectively.
First and foremost, it’s important to make clear that these allegations are unproven. Regardless, mud sticks and both of the accused will carry this reputational smear well into the future – whether it’s deserved or not. At the moment the evidence is vague – witnesses to Suarez’s abuse will be required to prove the case. There is video evidence against Terry – the onus will be on him to prove the words he is clearly seen mouthing at Ferdinand were not racial abuse. Terry claims the video (currently plastered all over the internet) were actually of him explaining that he might have been misheard previously – the England captain claims that as Ashley Cole runs across the foreground he masks Terry as he mouths the words “I did not call you a...”. It’ll be difficult to prove one way or the other.
One thing is for sure: nobody comes out of these situations looking good. And that’s the way it ought to be. There is simply no room for such abuse in society. It’s heartening that the Terry incident was reported by a member of the public (in the same way that Steve Finnan was accused by lip-readers in the Anfield crowd a while back) because it shows a lack of tolerance for such discrimination in football grounds – a situation would could hardly have been countenanced as recently as 25 years ago.
That football has cleaned up its act cannot be disputed. But the success of campaigns such as Kick It Out have not eradicated the problem – they’ve just removed it from public view and made it unacceptable to be seen as a racist. Which is why any instance of such abhorrent behaviour must be stamped out stridently and stringently by the powers that be.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not the view endorsed by The Daily Mail. Our most right-wing rag yesterday published one of the most appalling articles imaginable on this very subject as journalist Steve Doughty essentially advised Evra and Ferdinand to just ignore racist abuse. Nothing can make this article seem worse than at really was (it can be read in full here) but I’ll paraphrase it for you in succinct bullet points:
• Spain is a more racist country than England (as if that justifies anything!?)
• Racism isn’t nearly as bad in England as it used to be
• Anti-racism campaigns are boring
• It’s ok to blurt out racist insults if you immediately apologise
• There are “worse things to complain about”
• The abused players should “put up with it and get on with the game”
I’m not sure this excuse for a story warrants further comment other than to say that the main reason racism isn’t as prevalent in society is exactly because people are not prepared to tolerate it, are no longer expected to stoically suffer it and because the majority of people have more enlightened points of view than journalists from The Daily Hate Mail.
I recently witnessed a horrific incident (in Flamingo Land, of all places) where a family subjected a group of black teenagers to a torrent of disgusting racial abuse. In a perfect demonstration of their ignorance they called these (largely African) kids ‘Pakis’ and ‘Arabs’, had to be physically restrained from attacking them. Their spiteful, hate-filled, faces were genuinely frightening as they spat their insults across a children’s theme park. It was a grotesque scene – but a salient reminder of just how pathetic and disgusting some people’s beliefs and behaviours remain. Credit goes to the staff who immediately removed and banned the family. I believe that some of the children’s parents are pursuing the matter with the police: The Equality Act rightly makes all acts of racism illegal and prosecutable.
If either of the accused players are proved to be guilty they should face sanctions commensurate with their status and position in society. Like the Flamingo Land racists they should be immediately removed from their positions via a substantial ban, hit with a huge fine and ordered to work in their communities to promote racial equality. It goes without saying that Terry should be stripped of the England captaincy – and should arguably be prevented from ever representing his multi-racial squad ever again.
It’s only this kind of punishment which will demonstrate how unacceptable racism is in football and society at large. As long as there are apologists for racists, as long as there are people willing to brush the situation under the carpet, the problems will remain. Patrice Evra seems to have received some criticism for the way he raised the issue of his alleged abuse, but regardless of the outlet he chose to express his accusation, if the player feels Suarez has a case to answer he’s perfectly justified in raising the issue. And if a high-profile player such as Manchester United’s vice-captain can raise the issue – anyone can. All racist abuse should have a light shone firmly and brightly upon it – regardless of what Steve Doughty believes.