The Blog

Wake Up Football And Stop Pretending Racism Doesn't Exist

The deafening silence from fellow football professionals coupled with the absurd comments from the LMA, Redknapp and others are only making a problem that is deeply entrenched in society worse.

Excusing racism is as bad as expressing it. The former fuels the latter, almost as if it's a subtle - though often completely unintentional - form of endorsement.

It is one of the reasons we have seen such a spate of anti-semitic attacks in the past weeks, because the language and action of thugs have been frighteningly intellectualised. Removing kosher food from supermarket shelves is justified in puerile political terms, hate mobs get away with it because their 'cause' allows them to express such appalling sentiments.

And now perhaps we have the very worst example of such blind-eye turning. A former Premiership football manager, Malky Mackay, is found to have exchanged revolting texts with a colleague, referring to a 'fat Jew' and 'chinks' and a stream of homophobic and sexist sentiments.

But he's a good lad at heart you see, it was just "friendly text message banter" according to his representatives, adding that the texts ''were, with the benefit of hindsight, very regrettable and disrespectful of other cultures".

Remember the storm when that nasty foreigner Luis Suarez allegedly (at the time) used racist language on the pitch? Influential pundits like Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand led calls for severe punishment.

That kind of language might be OK in Montevideo, but not here they cried.

So I was surprised not to read more of Gary and Rio this time around - or not at the time of writing this article anyway. This is, after all, an even more clear-cut example of racism. But this is a 'god lad' we're talking about (a Briton of course, not a foreigner), someone they can call their friend. And so their disgust is levelled at the suits of the League Managers Association, whose cack-handed 'banter' response makes them look like dinosaurs defending the indefensible.

In an even more astonishing statement, QPR manager Harry Redknapp said: 'He's not murdered

anyone, he's not a rapist or a paedophile. He's made a big mistake. It happens. He's a family man, a football man. Obviously someone is after him, ain't they?''

And there we have it. A mate is revealed to have expressed racist sentiments and we should excuse and forgive it. After all, there's another agenda here. (Presumably Harry means the revenge of Mackay's former boss, Vincent Tan, a moustachioed Asian businessman who bought Cardiff football club and was memorably and not at all offensively likened to a 'Bond villain' by Harry's son Jamie.)

What planet are these people on? Banter? Mistake? Presumably the former colleague who once snidely asked me why Jews are 'so good at holding on to their money' was just having a laugh. Or when, in an editorial conference, a story was rejected for inclusion in the newspaper because the celebrity involved 'is just a bum bandit'. Not homophobic, maybe a bit crude.

Equally, the lack of black faces on the front of newspapers and magazines is not at all racist - it's just that, well, white faces sell more copies. That sentiment isn't racist, it's just excused as a commercial decision.

When Ukip politicians are caught expressing racist sentiments they are excused for being 'tired' in the case of Nigel Farage, or linguistically naïve in the case of his followers. But not racist.

We pride ourselves on being a liberal, understanding society in which racism is condemned but, just as importantly, the 'causes' of racism need to be understood. Fine. I'm all for understanding, it's one of the most important means of changing people's vile attitudes.

But excusing is an entirely different - and far more worrying - attitude.

The deafening silence from fellow football professionals coupled with the absurd comments from the LMA, Redknapp and others are only making a problem that is deeply entrenched in society worse.

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil of friends who reveal their true selves. It's why anti-semitism is on the rise and why football is as far removed from reality as ever.

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