To Kill The Mockingbirds - by J.S. Leatherbarrow
Banana skins thrown at black players, antisemitic abuse, Nazi salutes, monkey chants aimed at players - by fans and opposition players.
You’d be forgiven for thinking we were talking about 1980 - not 2019.
Yet here we are. Racism had never truly gone away in football, but it did seem to be decreasing.
It’s tone. And I’m not talking about the colour of people’s skin - I’m talking about coverage. This is all down to the rise and rise of social and digital media and the desperate grab for people’s attention.
Traditional newsrooms have even caught the click-bait bug. They know the more ridiculous the piece or opinion, the more likely it is to generate clicks - and therefore revenue. They know that faux-controversial headlines will grab attention more than something that is genuinely interesting. This has lead to a widespread diminishment or - at the very least - a huge watering-down in quality of writing.
So what the fuck has this got to do with football and racism?
Well it’s like this.
The more hatred and anger that spreads through continued negative media coverage, the more people get angry, have shorter leashes and are more likely to act out. Social media makes you realise how tiny you are and how loud you have to shout just to get your voice heard. I don’t personally play ball - but I can understand and sympathise with people that do. It’s important to feel important.
Stirring up this division and hatred in the press is nothing new, but it is more immediately obvious and widespread now. In football, you can see it in every made-up transfer rumour, in every over-sharing of a controversial decision. The hate becomes real. And when you get this angry it starts to come out and spill over into real life in very, very, bad ways.
For every Daily Mail or Sun article on Raheem Sterling’s tattoo, or him “blinging out” (cringe) the house he bought for his Mother - it just helps to reinforce negative stereotypes about young, black, men. Look at the undue amount of negativity towards Dele Alli or Paul Pogba. Usually over young men having fun & dancing or getting a haircut.
All of those players are incredibly talented - but the press doesn’t seem to like successful young men - and let’s be real here - successful, young, BLACK men having a bit of fun & being a bit silly from time to time. Why shouldn’t they? What is wrong with them goofing around a little bit? I’ve seen the same people praise ex-pros like Gazza for his “personality” - which largely revolved around drunken antics - hammering Pogba for having a silly haircut - or God forbid - dancing. Total double-standards.
It’s down to race. The media do it far more with young black players than they do with white ones. And if you can’t see that - you are colour-blind - but not in a good way.
The press needs to change and be more responsible in the way it covers pretty much everything related to football at the moment. But particularly towards young, black, players. There needs to be more diversity in newsrooms and on television - to give out more positive role models than the hideous stereotyping we are constantly subjected to.
The fans who are racist & engage in racist actions need to do better - much better.
The governing bodies & the clubs need to do better. They need to take more responsibility and commit to driving this cancer out of our game long term. Focus on education - banning people has to happen - of course it does - but it doesn’t even begin to tackle the root of the problem.
At the bottom of it all lies this truth - if you judge someone purely on them having a different pigment in their skin to you - you are far more worthless to the human race than the people that you think are.
It all starts with education. And the press have a huge part to play in that. We have a responsibility to help inform people - not to create division, not to make people angry, but at times to help heal and educate.
The Sterling hate needs to stop. The Pogba hate needs to stop. The Dele hate needs to stop. The Koulibaly hate needs to stop. The racism needs to stop.
Because honestly I don’t want the game to go back to the dark ages.
This is 2019 and it just won’t wash anymore.
Just let people enjoy the fucking football. It’s a game - and not worth abusing someone over.
The revolution will be televised.