Instead of being caught up in the fervent excitement ahead of a trip to Rio next summer we are now being embroiled in the most bizarre of race rows. Roy Hodgson stands accused of making a space race monkey joke during the half time team talk on Tuesday, which according to those offended was interpreted as a racist jibe towards Tottenham winger Andros Townsend.
Although the exact details of what was or wasn’t said are largely unclear, the joke was supposedly part of a gambit to get Chris Smalling to pass more frequently to Andros Townsend and it reportedly involved the NASA punch line; “feed the monkey”. The Sun has since claimed that at least one player was offended by Hodgson’s outburst and this has in part allowed the issue to escalate.
I would like to make it clear that I don’t condone racism in any form, but in the same way I don’t stand for the politically correct idiocy that is gripping our once liberal country.
Racism is still a problem in the 21st century but in my opinion those that try to stoke up offence whenever possible just act to blur the real perpetrators. It has got to the point where you actually have to stop and think about what you say even when you have absolutely no intention of being racially aggravating. I think Steven Fry was spot on when he made the following remarks on this whole concept of offence:
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so f*ck*ng what.”
If you ask me the player that was quick to associate the monkey joke with Andros Townsend’s ethnicity is arguably acting in more of a racist way than Hodgson himself, and this really underlines how ridiculous the whole issue is.
The player himself has even come out to defend his manager, even going so far as to dismiss the whole episode:
Stan Collymore a staunch campaigner for anti-racism was also quick to defend Hodgson, hitting the nail on the head when he argued that events like this just end up clouding those that really are racially aggravating:
The very fact that Hodgson has even had to apologise is to me a worry in itself, why apologise when to any reasonable observer you can see that he hasn’t done anything wrong? This isn’t so much a footballing issue but a cross-societal one. Year on year we continue to have our personal freedom of expression impinged by those that wish to sterilise our language of all things that could feasibly cause offence.
Much of associated press have been quick to castigate Hodgson and I believe wrongly. I’m not surprised though, you only have to look at the recent cases of both Robbie Fowler and Adrian Chiles to realise how quick our media are to chastise those that stray from the realms of acceptability.
Now in the current climate all three cases involved the individuals using somewhat ill advised language considering the media spotlight, but this doesn’t make them wrong to do so. I doubt Fowler is a chauvinist as much as Chiles is a Pole hater, but this is the way our media and in fact many in society chose to treat those who act in this way.
Piara Powar, the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) organisation, suggested Hodgson was wrong to use the term. He wrote on Twitter:
“Hodgson used very silly term within a diverse team environment. He should know better. Assume it wasn’t a Freudian slip, no evidence to suggest it was. Some players will see it as reflection of the crude language still used by some coaches and attitudes that still prevail.”
Yes again Hodgson was perhaps a little naive, but really who is Powar to tell a manager to stop using this so called ‘crude’ language? Is the expectation now for managers up and down the country to submit their perfect works of prose before kick off for moderation? Honestly where have we ended up when a manager is being told how to address his players?
I fully expect and hope Hodgson used ‘crude’ language after some of the dross England produced during this qualifying campaign. Can you really imagine Sir Alex Ferguson straying away from ‘crude’ language when United were under-performing?
Obviously there is a difference between racism/sexism and crude language, but clearly this distinction is much too complicated for those in positions of authority to distinguish.
Has society gone mad, or am I just as much of a racist and bigot as Hodgson?