No blacks, no campaign?
The Kick It Out campaign, which has been campaigning to rid racism from football since 1993, has been criticised for “not being strong enough” in its reaction to the recent cases involving Luis Suarez and former England captain John Terry, writes Jordan Jarrett-Bryan
Reading’s Jason Roberts kicked off the confrontation, announcing on Thursday that he would not join in during the campaign’s annual fortnight when all Premier League players are asked to don Kick It Out T-shirts while warming up for games.
Roberts said: “When’s there’s a movement that represents the issue and works for me, I’ll happily support the campaign.” True to his word, he didn’t wear the T-shirt and many other players followed.
When’s there’s a movement that represents the issue and works for me, I’ll happily support the campaign.Jason Roberts
The most high-profile player to shun the campaign was Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand. His manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, spoke in the post-match interview of his disappointment and said Ferdinand would be “dealt with”.
The United boss has since struck a more conciliatory tone, blaming the disagreement on “communication problems”.
Bearing in mind Rio’s younger brother Anton was at the heart of the race storm, did anyone, most of all Sir Alex, expect Rio to wear the T-shirt?
Plenty was said over the weekend about the infringement of Rio’s rights as a person, let alone player by Ferguson. Can a manager force a player to back something he doesn’t believe in?
Urgent questions need answering. Does the campaign lose integrity if black players don’t back it? if yes, the next question is: are black people allowed to feel more offended by racism than others? And if Kick It Out has no real influence or power, what is the point of it?
KIO was formed nearly 20 years ago when attitudes were very different. It was welcomed by all and backed by black and white players alike. It appeared to have a noticeable effect on curbing displays of prejudice against players based on their ethnic origin.
But with an increasing number of black players, including Stoke’s Kenwyne Jones and Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott, snubbing the campaign last weekend, does it weaken the message for the very people it is meant to represent? Imagine an anti-racism campaign featuring only white players. Would a racist take that seriously?
This is why Kick It Out now has to take into account the feelings of the players it is supposed to be working on behalf of – because the next incident of racism could result in even more black players abandoning the campaign.