22/08/2014

It's Not "Banter"

After more private discrimination being brought to light, it is time for football to accept the consequences, and stop hiding behind the excuse of "banter".

Malky Mackay and Iain Moody are alleged to have been involved in the sending of text messages containing racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic content. The league managers association have released a statement referring to the incidents as "letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter".


The definition of banter is this; the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks. The definition of banter is not; making racist, sexist, homophobic comments, or any comment of a discriminatory nature, and then passing it off as a joke when you get caught.

However the football industry seems to have got these two definitions confused. When Andy Gray and Richard Keys used sexist and borderline misogynistic language towards Sian Massey, Claire Tomlinson and Charlotte Jackson, it was referred to as a "private bit of banter".

When Richard Scudamore sent misogynistic emails, again, the defence of "private banter" was used.

Now, for the the third incident in recent times, we are allowing racism, homophobia, sexism and anti-semitism to be a part of football, so long as it is "private banter".

First thing's first, whether discriminatory comments are made in private or not, is irrelevant when you hold a position of public interest. It is not only completely naive to assume that while holding a public position your private comments will not be scrutinised, but it is also still morally wrong.

Whether prejudice occurs in private or public does not matter, and while yes, there is an issue with the way that private information is being leaked, that is not the most important issue at hand. The most important issue here, is that people of power within our game, are holding views of a sexist, racist, homophobic and prejudice nature.

Prejudice occurs when a stereotype based on little evidence is applied to all members of that group. E.g, every teenager who wears a hoodie must be a chav. There is nothing inherently wrong with prejudice, or stereotyping. The problem comes when those with prejudice views make the transition from merely holding that view, to acting in a way that corresponds with that view, aka discrimination.

Hence why in football, the privacy of a display of prejudice is beside the point. The point is that people holding prejudice views, which have the potential to turn into discrimination, are holding positions at the top of our football pyramid. From bosses of the Premier League, to media gurus and football managers. It all matters.

It is the underlying attitude of the majority in football. Predominantly, those with a position of power within football are white, male, and heterosexual - which combined gives the most protection from prejudice, and these are the people that are holding the prejudices which have a direct effect on minority groups. (Before this blog post attracts mansplainers, yes I am aware that not all white, heterosexual men are racist, sexist or homophobic.)

Many people claim that racism, homophobia and sexism are decreasing in football, however for many minorities - this is simply not true. Much discrimination occurs behind closed doors, and much prejudice occurs privately, and therefore is only heard of when it is leaked.

The current problem now, is that discrimination is so deeply ingrained in our society that many of us have become completely desensitised to it, and therefore cannot recognise it unless it is a particularly horrifying or shocking case. The most shocking part, is that minority groups in football aren't even shocked by these revelations of prejudice because it is so commonplace for us.

It is time for football to clamp down, and lower it's tolerance for discrimination to zero. It is time for football to stop hiding behind a veil of imaginary and, frankly unfunny "banter" and take responsibility for the discrimination it perpetuates. It is time for a restructure of how discrimination is dealt with, within the industry, and time for offenders to be reprimanded, instead of leaving scandals with their job in tact due to defences of private banter.

Racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-semitism are all offensive prejudices which lead to discrimination. They are categorically, not banter.

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