Strictly speaking, we are looking in the wrong place for racism
00:00 GMT, 7 November 2012
Song and dance: Colin Salmon and Kristina Rihanoff compete in Strictly
Colin Salmon was voted off Strictly Come Dancing
on Sunday night. You know what would be said if that were football.
Salmon is an imposingly tall, gentlemanly, well-spoken and stylish black
man, by some distance not the worst dancer on the show. He is a
respected actor who has appeared in three James Bond films, an
accomplished trumpet player and the leader of the Fox Carnival Band, a
youth charity active at the Notting Hill Carnival. Without descending
into caricature, one presumes that he can cut a rug.
by last weekend, week five, he was gone. Salmon joins geriatrics Johnny
Ball and Jerry Hall and Sid Owen, a chirpy Cockney with two left plates
of meat, on Strictly’s early
casualty list. Except they were hopeless and he wasn’t. Even so, he said
goodbye with such grace and generosity of spirit that, despite the
manipulative nature of reality television, it was really quite moving.
The judges looked genuinely regretful at his departure. If this were
football, the Society of Black Lawyers would have been on to the
Metropolitan Police before the titles came up.
To the unfamiliar it should be explained how Strictly
works. The couples dance and the judges give opinions and marks, for
entertainment purposes only at first. The public then get a say by
telephone poll. After this, the two pairs who have fared worst in that
vote must perform their routine again and the judges, taking only this
final performance into account, decide which couple stays in the
competition. The other pair leaves.
The past two weeks, Salmon has been
inexplicably endangered by the public poll. On Sunday, his luck ran out.
He performed nervously in the dance-off and was eliminated. Aside from
Louis Smith, the Olympic gymnast, who is mixed race, Strictly is now
all white on the night.
it is just coincidence. Strictly is now in its 10th series and previous
winners have included Mark Ramprakash and Alesha Dixon, while Denise
Lewis, Colin Jackson and Chelsee Healey have made it to the final. All,
however, were fine movers by the end.
black man has got to fly to get to something the white man can walk
to,’ said Chris Rock, the comedian, and that seems to be the case on
Strictly. If a black contestant is very good, he or she might make the
final. If a black contestant is even half as clumsy as the white folk
competing, out he goes.
Previous winner: Mark Ramprakash took 2006's Strictly crown alongside Karen Hardy
it could be argued that to have five black finalists in 27 beats the
four black football managers working for the 92 league clubs in England.
Even so, Salmon’s premature eviction — remember he could have gone a
week earlier — did seem to suggest a certain preference from the
audience at home.
This is not the BBC’s fault, or the
judges’ fault. A democratic vote is never perfect. No doubt some people
declared for Mitt Romney for the wrong reasons, too. Yet the strangest
postscript to Salmon’s exit was that nobody found it strange at all.
There was absolutely no puzzlement that a perfectly capable dancer,
without doubt open to further improvement and appreciated by
knowledgeable judges, should not find similar favour with the public. If
it were football, the Prime Minister would be airing his views on Radio
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Last week, David Cameron
demanded the Football Association stepped up its efforts against
racism. Like all good politicians, he is never found up a siding when a
populist charabanc goes by. Hugh Robertson, his sports minister, said:
‘Events over the last year have shown the need for action.’
they have. Barely a day goes by now without a fan or footballer being
accused of racism. There was that guy in the crowd at Chelsea, and now
an Everton supporter at QPR. John Terry and Luis Suarez we know about.
There are some quite nasty individuals on Twitter, too. And they are all
packaged together, these lone souls, into a festering boil called
Racism in Football. Meanwhile, the rest of society goes on its merry
way, unquestioned and unquestioning, assured that only the national
sport has a problem with black people: despite it making more of them
rich than politics, journalism, law, ballroom dancing or the
mainstream Saturday night entertainment industry put together.
Is it any wonder that, in this climate, Ramires of Chelsea believes he heard a white referee, Mark Clattenburg, refer to his black team-mate John Mikel Obi as a ‘monkey’ two weeks ago.
Ramires has limited English, meaning he probably has limited knowledge of English culture, too. From what he would have been able to glean lately, he probably thinks black players are racially abused in English football all the time. That has certainly been the narrative of the last 12 months. Every day a new outrage.
On Monday it was Patrick Kluivert, with headlines stating that he had been called a monkey, too, during his time at Newcastle United. Careful reading of his words, however, revealed he had said he encountered racism in every country — not just England — and that he recalled the noises as ‘monkey sounds, or something like that’.
There were no fine details, no named match or stadium, not even a specific noise or chant that had been heard. Yet the hare is running fast on this story now, so Kluivert’s hazy recall became a clear recollection in big print, despite the fact that one couldn’t hang a dog on his evidence. With an information service like this, no wonder black players, particularly foreign ones, now spy racists on football’s every corner.
Furore: John Mikel Obi (right) protests to Mark Clattenburg at Stamford Bridge
Sometimes, when trying to do the right thing, those who are supposed to be part of the solution become part of the problem. Football is approaching this point now.
Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, reported Clattenburg’s alleged hate crime to the police, despite the fact he heard nothing, saw nothing and knew nothing of it beyond what he read in the newspapers. He then expressed surprise that Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, felt able to dismiss the assertion against Clattenburg when it was now a police matter.
‘It is ill-advised when there is a criminal investigation to seek to pass judgment on a person you don’t know,’ sniffed Herbert. ‘A first-year law student would tell you that.’
Yet if the police investigation into Clattenburg is not being taken seriously, whose fault is this When Herbert states that he will be reporting all instances of alleged racism in football to the police — the ones he hears about through media outlets, obviously — it smacks of bandwagon-jumping.
Ferguson will see Herbert as a lawyer bolting himself on to football for publicity purposes, and the police investigation as a product of this. Rightly or wrongly, therefore, he will not regard it as a proper matter for the police, but a manufactured furore that should have been for the FA to resolve before further action was considered.
Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal, clearly agrees. Maybe privately, despite his brave public face, he considers the abuse he receives at some grounds every bit as dehumanising as racism, and resents the fact that it goes largely ignored by the authorities.
Vile abuse: Arsene Wenger was subjected to a number of chants from the Manchester United fans
David Jones, manager of Sheffield Wednesday who is also subjected to a vile commentary, certainly does. Herbert may feel strongly that he is making a positive contribution to the race issue by complaining, but this tactic appears to have alienated as many as it has encouraged. It has certainly not solved any issues.
The defence of Clattenburg, now stood down for a second week pending a police interview, seems to have at its core an incredulity that a match official could behave in such a gravely inappropriate manner, even if flustered under pressure. This does have some logic to it. Even were Clattenburg the Grand Wizard of the Gateshead branch of the Ku Klux Klan he would probably know to keep a lid on it in English football at the moment.
Yet viewed with cool rationality, few race cases follow a path of common sense, because racism is not an intellectually worthy stance. Terry’s explanation for his ‘FBC’ comment to Anton Ferdinand does not hold up to much scrutiny; but equally nor does the conviction that he would scream that insult down the pitch while surrounded by black colleagues.
A personal theory, bearing in mind no witness can corroborate what was actually said and the video evidence does show that the sentence uttered consisted of more than just those three offending words, is that, riled by Ferdinand’s needling comments about his private life, Terry lost his temper and said something like: ‘So it’s OK for me to call you a FBC, then’ Rumbled, he then covered his traces by explaining this away as a more innocuous question in which he still uttered the offending words.
Flashpoint: Anton Ferdiand and John Terry at Loftus Road
It is just a guess. Hell, who knows And who knows about Clattenburg, either Some say they heard it, others say they did not, and in the meantime a steady drip of innuendo, point and counter-point from those who haven’t a genuine clue either way creates the impression that football is a rancid cesspit of racial hatred when it is actually making more young black men rich than any industry this side of MOBO.
Football is a phenomenal agent for change and social mobility and has an almost brutal meritocracy at its heart. Yes, it could do better. Society could do better. So could you, so could I.
Yet if Strictly Come Dancing were a Premier League football team, Colin Salmon would be in the starting XI on Saturday, and picked solely on ability. And that is the biggest problem. That we do not recognise where the real problem is any more.
And while we're at it…
Legal brief: Pat McQuaid
Skins, an Australian sportswear company, are suing the International Cycling Union (UCI), their president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen over their feeble response to the doping scandal. Skins claim the UCI are responsible for a loss of confidence in cycling by the public, which in turn has tarnished their reputation.
The company have sponsored USA Olympic cyclists and professional teams, including Rabobank and Team NetApp, since 2008.
2008 So, since the death of Marco Pantani in 2004, Roland Meier’s positive EPO test in 2001 and Giuseppe Di Grandi’s six-month prison sentence for violating anti-doping laws in 2005.
After the blood doping convictions of Tyler Hamilton and Alexandre Vinokourov (2004 and 2007). After Michael Rasmussen had been removed from Rabobank for whereabouts testing violations in 2007. After the suspensions that followed Operacion Puerto (2004-07). After the conviction of disgraced physician Michele Ferrari in 2004 and long after the publication of L.A. Confidentiel: Les secrets de Lance Armstrong by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester.
Yes, one can see how the people from Skins got taken in: if they lived in sealed caves.
Hammered by flighty Boris
Bidding process What bidding process West Ham United must surely be regretting the decision to compete for London’s Olympic Stadium in a respectful and structured way.
Their formality has cost in the region of 1m so far in lawyers, surveyors, architects and sundry fees.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, London Mayor, seems to open talks with anybody he meets. Latest to negotiate are executives from America’s NFL, flushed with success from their annual visit to Wembley.
As West Ham stew, new bids arrive out of thin air. If we all have a whip-round, maybe we could have a go.
Another footballing hotbed ignored
Top of the table in this season’s J-League are Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Attendances are up almost 30 per cent.
It was a shame that a city which has always embraced football was not allowed to host games at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Not that lessons have been learned. Krasnodar, a city near the Black Sea with a population of almost 750,000 and two thriving Premier League teams, has been overlooked for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Saransk, home to fewer than 300,000 with a team bottom of the Premier League, having made it for the first time this season, will host instead.