Racism: on the pitch but off the agenda

By Jon Burnett :  Original Article IRR
24 November 2011, 5:00pm
What should we make of recent allegations of racism in football?

Show Racism the Red Card
Show Racism the Red Card

UNTIL recently, the narrative on racism in English football resembled something of a self-congratulatory redemption story. The forms of racist abuse that were explicit in the 1980s – fans throwing bananas at black players, spitting at them when they took a throw-in, making monkey-noises when they received the ball, not ‘counting’ the goals they scored for the national team – were all seen, by and large, as things of the past. Similarly, the racial abuse that footballers had to endure by opposing players (and in some cases team-mates) was generally explained away as a regrettable reminder of a bygone era. ‘Moved on’ was the general perception: football, aside from the odd remark from the odd bad apple, had ‘moved on’.

The question as to exactly how far the game has moved on has been thrown open with the allegations that England captain John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand in October and, in November, with the Football Association (FA) charging Liverpool striker Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra. These may be especially high-profile incidents, yet they show a reality in football in which racism is very much a factor in the present.

In the last two months alone five high-profile footballers, Sammy Ameobi, Jay Bothroyd, Frazier Campbell, Anton Ferdinand and James Vaughan, have had racist comments sent to them through twitter; and the former footballer and now ‘Talksport’ pundit Stan Collymore was threatened with violence through the same format for speaking out against racism. On the pitch, Chelsea fans allegedly sang racist chants to Daniel Sturridge, a striker playing for their club, recently. Arsenal supporters chanted ‘it should have been you’ to Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, referring to an incident last year when he was on a bus with team-mates from Togo and gunmen shot and killed the driver, the media officer and the team’s assistant coach. (Tottenham fans, incidentally, also racially abused him when he was playing for Real Madrid against them earlier this year.) The Blyth Spartans player, Richard Offiong, claimed that another footballer said to him ‘where are your bananas? Show me your passport’ a few weeks ago.[1] And, returning to social media, Worcester City footballer Lee Smith tweeted on Armistice Day that ‘Illegal immigrants’ should f**k off out of are (sic) country … kill um’, before initially defending his comments and saying he was not really serious about inciting murder.[2]

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One thought on “Racism: on the pitch but off the agenda

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