THE SUPPORTER arrested for alleged racial abuse directed at Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi won’t be charged, it has been confirmed today.
I went to Elland Road in the immediate aftermath of Fowler being sold to Leeds United by Gerard Houllier. First game there, a headcase sits near us and spends the entire game ranting about Fowler. He hated Robbie. He had the sort of massive axe you only see in rubbish like Game Of Thrones to grind against him. Everyone is giving the “get-on-this-mad-bastard” eyes that you get. The headcase screams at the top of his voice “fuck off Fowler, you Blue bastard.” Leeds stewards wade in and drag him out for racist abuse, their brains translating this nonsense as “black” rather than “blue”. A couple of police get involved. Three or four of us explained that this headcase is a headcase but he isn’t being racist. We talked them through his addled mind, that Fowler was an Evertonian growing up, and seemingly, this is the one man in the world who will never forgive him for it. They couldn’t get their heads around it – neither could we, really – but finally they let the headcase back to his seat.
Last week on the podcast I argued with Ollie Holt that his commentary condemnation of the Adeyemi incident at the time was a bit of a leap – it was too quick. I maintain that, but conversely am immediately reminded that Earl Jenkins told us on an earlier podcast of a young black Liverpudlian feeling intimidated at an away game after a couple of shouts that were offensive. Mike Girling said, on the same podcast, that the incidents/coverage had, as far as he’s concerned, given cover to people who harbour racist views to feel a little freer to air them. To be brutally honest, “We’re not racist, we only hate Mancs” is a little edgy for my liberal, limp-wristed tastes. Should we really be adding reference this entire imbroglio into our canon? Can’t the infamous line be drawn beneath?
There is a question that arises out of all this, though, about responsibility – about where that feeling of cover comes from. Liverpool haven’t wanted to be seen as a racist club. They have attempted, undoubtedly cack-handedly, to stand by their player whom they believe to be innocent. They have, however, been relentlessly lambasted as such by a media that has been too desperate and too quick for the story, and a commentariat too eager for to generate headlines and hits, too speedy to sling its opinion around on social media. This same media and commentariat hasn’t come near to even attempting holding to account a report or process that should be open for question, that’s ripe for change – arguably unfit for purpose. The climate in which Adeyemi hears what he believes was racial abuse is as whipped up by a media in dire need of perpetual scandal as it is mishandled by Liverpool.
But, and this is crucial, the climate in which Earl Jenkins reports intimidating shouts is one where dickheads believe their dickheaditudes are now quasi-accepted by the club/wider support. It is something which may be reinforced by slack, speedy and aggressive reportage, but it is down to us first and foremost to address. But, as the arrest records show, Liverpool are in no way unique. This permeates football at all levels, in all grounds. To very loosely paraphrase – we all, in essence, know what a minority of us are.
The football club, all football clubs, Liverpool’s footballers, all footballers, have a lot of work to do on racism. This should surely go without saying as society as a whole has even more work to do. Ian Herbert points both out at the foot of this article, referring both to Suarez and to the Guardian’s story about unemployment amongst young black men.
If it doesn’t go without saying, then despite this lad being innocent against Oldham (and I can only imagine he’s had a nightmare few weeks) we’re deluding ourselves if we think everyone is only ever shouting “blue bastard.” However what needs to be remembered by reporters and commentators is that they are deluding themselves if they believe it is only an issue in one ground. They created a feeding frenzy and feeding frenzies help no one. They shine no light and force people onto the defensive. If Liverpool supporters, if journalists, politicians, ex-players sincerely want to eradicate racism from football, from society (and I believe that all do sincerely want that) then calm heads and open discussion will help a lot more than finger pointing and carping at one hundred miles an hour.