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Malky Mackay Response Shows Up Football's Glaring Equality Issues Once Again

26/08/2014 16:41 BST | Updated 26/10/2014 09:59 GMT

Discrimination in sport is an uncomfortable topic for many. When it makes the news - like it has recently, with Iain Moody and Malky Mackay's texts - there will be a general murmuring that yes, discrimination is bad and it should stop.

And then?

Everyone forgets and goes back to normal.

It's hard to say for sure, but it feels like the reactions to this sort of thing are actually getting worse. Instead of focussing on the undeniable way that gender, race and sexual orientation affect a person's life in football, this time the focus has been on Mackay himself. "Was it bad that he said these things?" "How will this affect him, personally?" For the what it's worth, "Yes" and "Who cares?" seem to be reasonable views. But this is about more than just Mackay and Moody.

The LMA's statement on Mackay's behalf gave the world an unpleasant peek behind the curtain, trying to explain away his words as "banter" and excusing them as the words of a man under serious pressure.

"Who hasn't," they seemed to say, "said something racist when under pressure? Isn't that the default human response?" No, it isn't and shouldn't be. Unless your excuse is "I'm racist/sexist/homophobic, but I do a good job hiding it, the mask just slips under pressure," then that's not at all a valid reason for your actions. And let's face it, that's a pretty poor excuse.

Small wonder the LMA now see themselves representing 92 league managers without a single black man among their ranks. Small wonder there are no openly gay professional footballers in England.

The culture that surrounds English football must change. The country as a whole is managing that change - slowly but surely. More non-heterosexual people feel comfortable coming out than ever and non-white people are getting a fairer shot in the job market. Same goes for women. The job isn't done - there's still a disparity - but it's a start.

Why, then, does football seem to be going backwards? The reaction to Richard Scudamore's sexist email scandal back in May was possibly more telling than the story itself.

In case you were living under a rock at the time, Premier League chief executive Scudamore's former PA exposed a string of staggeringly sexist emails which were automatically sent to her, as were the rest of his emails, so that she could arrange his diary.

She exposed the emails, the football world at large took one look at the situation... and immediately dived in to defend Scudamore. The papers in the next week or so were full of people he'd worked with insisting that he wasn't a sexist man and the Premier League took no action against him.

The matter of whether he is a sexist man or not is largely irrelevant. Who cares about his deeper nature? The messages he sent were insulting to women and will serve to push many away from the sport. The impassioned defence of him by those 'inside football' and the fact that he faced no sanctions sends a message as clear and unpleasant as any that Scudamore wrote: Football doesn't care about including women. This sport, it says, is a man's world and you're just going to have to deal with that fact.

The response to this new Mackay scandal cast the net even further. Just a week on, most of the rhetoric became about him 'bouncing back' from adversity to get another job in the future. How, in just a week, has he become the victim here?

This has to change. The talk can no longer be "Okay, so he said racist things but he's a nice guy. Lay off him, he's my friend." It must become "He's my friend, I thought he was a nice guy, that's why I'm doubly appalled at what he's said."

If someone you know makes a racist, sexist or homophobic joke - don't laugh along for the sake of avoiding confrontation. That isn't you "not taking a stand". When you laugh at a racist joke, you endorse it. When you laugh at a sexist joke, in reinforces the thought that yeah, maybe sexism IS funny. When you laugh at a homophobic joke that a friend makes to you on the terraces, the message you send to the people around you is that gay people are a figure of fun, just the butt of a joke.

All the anti-racism campaigns in the world won't work unless individuals stand up and join the fight.

You want to see discrimination eradicated in football? You want to make football a place for everyone? Don't stand by. Do your bit. Kick it out.

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