Serious mails: Is it because they are black?

Date published: Monday 25th July 2016 9:33

This starts off serious but it’s a subject worth discussing. Mail us on this or any subject at


Attitude to black sportspeople shows we must try harder
Daniel Sturridge is a player who divides opinion, and lacks acclaim despite being an excellent striker. This is definitely true. But is it because he is black, or is it because he has shown a loyalty to nobody but himself throughout his career, and has never built a reputation as someone who plays for the team? Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know is that there are still a lot of people who default to race-based insults when raging at players, and it saddens me greatly.

I started this mail with the mindset that the attitude towards Sturridge was more to do with his playing style than his skin colour, but I don’t know if I believe that. I’d like to, but I see the manner in which some of my favourite sportspeople are treated and have to doubt myself. Serena Williams is quite possibly the greatest tennis player of all time, and yet so much is focussed on her appearance, her build, her perceived aggression; this is someone who has been operating at the highest level for years, has won everything, broken records, changing and dominating her sport like no other. Any article about Lewis Hamilton will see a huge number of British F1 fans wading in to slam him for his arrogance and lifestyle, as though F1 drivers are usually meek little men in quilted dressing gowns, always tucked up in bed by 7pm. Yet most of those people would not regard themselves as racist.

I find myself looking at the adjectives more and more. Characteristics celebrated in one athlete are framed less appealingly in another. Graf and Navratilova were adored, the Williams sisters feared, or regarded as physical freaks, all power and no style. Jenson Button was the English hero, Hamilton the hip-hop playboy who doesn’t care. If you are black and dare to compete in a sport outside of track events or boxing, prepare to be treated as a brash and abrasive intruder. Prepare for your skill to be ignored. Prepare for your behaviour to be questioned, for your frustration to be deemed anger, for your wealth to be criticised. Want to be vocal about the racism in the world? Prepare to be damned.

A while ago, someone wrote into the mailbox about the use of ‘boy’ and ‘lad’ in football, citing the frequency of the former when talking about black players, whereas it was often the latter with white players. He was spot on. We fear and abhor the extreme right, and their violence and hatred, but we pretend that’s all there is. That racism is overt, conveyed by tattoos and insults, skinheads and fists. And then we pick up a paper and see journalists falling over each other to tear a young black footballer to shreds. An increase of black voices in sports journalism would help, but we need to keep challenging the things we hear, and the things we say ourselves. We need to question why black male roles in film/TV are often characterised as sex-obsessed, violent or greedy, and black women as angry or promiscuous. Why the shooting of a black child can be made acceptable because he had shoplifted shortly beforehand.

As I write this, Lewis Hamilton has just given the middle finger to Esteban Guttierez after the latter failed to move out of his way. The Daily Mail must be frothing at the keyboard.


No, there is no deep-rooted problem
In response to an email regarding Daniel Sturridge that posed some interesting questions about race I would like to offer my thoughts. Not that I need to qualify my opinion but I should give you some personal background information. My father is black American and my mother is white English and I have lived in both countries. Because of my mixed background when it comes to race I often look at things from three perspectives; black, white and grey.

Personally I believe racism is a very different animal in the US. Britain doesn’t really suffer from the same polarising black versus white issues that plague America, certainly not on the same scale. There are fewer ethnic ghettos and less social separation and economic disparity. The history of slavery doesn’t cast a shadow on great swathes of the country and mixed-race relationships in adverts don’t become national talking points.

From a footballing perspective there has been significant progress against racism over the years. In this country I have witnessed abhorrent abuse by fans directed at supporters and players of the same team, including sometimes at myself. This however is from a very small minority that is constantly decreasing and society generally mirrors that. There have been non-white players in the England football team for decades playing in every single position. This is probably the same for most club sides too. These players have had various levels of ability and industry and have been numerous enough to debunk stereotypes and generalisations that used to be prevalent in the game. For every disparaging remark about a non-white player’s work rate there is also praise for the efforts of others for example N’Golo Kante. The jury’s out on whether people hate Sturridge’s celebratory dance more than Griezmann’s and any display of wealth is likely to further infuriate and alienate fans during tough economic times.

Football finances in England are spiraling out of control and considering players can retire as multi-millionaires without ever playing at the highest level shows how distant the Average Joe is from the players he pays to watch. The tale of Jamie Vardy rekindles some of the romance and bridges the connection between fan and footballer. It sells newspapers even if journalists have to edit or spin some of the unsavoury details. However he is still a polarising figure and is no media darling by any stretch of the imagination. For the purpose of balance there are non-white athletes that are lauded for their work ethic and humility who are very much the public faces of their sports, namely Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah.

Where persistent talk of a black man being lazy and flash might carry racial undertones in the US I think it’s less likely in the UK. I would say it is more down to lazy journalism or punditry where a loose comment or observation has become common parlance. For Sturridge and lazy read stonewall and penalty. It may also be born out of frustration that he has not fulfilled his potential or reached the lofty expectations put upon English footballers. Selfishness or single-mindedness could also be considered a valuable attribute in some ways. If there is any issue against Daniel Sturridge because of his ethnicity I don’t think it is wide-reaching. Is he the victim of stereotyping or subtle racism? Maybe but not by many and taking into account other factors I don’t think it is indicative of a deep-rooted problem within the game.
CP, Cambridge


Is it racism or just criticism?
It was a sensible and completely absurd mailbox. Racism and football, in the case of Sturridge made me sit up. One of the only spheres where black men are accepted and adored is in sports, and football. Racism shows up in different ways, but the most consistent is that black people are sub par and never equal. People, whether black or white, given the same resources and exposed to the same enviroment, end up almost equal, with blacks edging it, I guess they have a chip on their shoulders.

Socially and economically, black people are brought up with less, and end up having to make up with less tools and so the cycle continues. To have broken the cycle, and still be judged this way, makes Sturrigde a strange case if true. Unless off course that it’s not racism, it’s just fact.

Football has fallen in love with many black men, Thiery Henry, Drogba, Yorke, Evra just to name a few, so it seems strange that fans would now choose color as the main reason to hate on an individual. England, by and large is one of the most progressive countries on race matters, so it seems strange that the Sturridge case is racism inspired. Is it plausible that every negative thing said to a black person is not racism but just critism. But because of racism, we can never truly tell when it’s racism or real critism.
Dave (4-1, Is Mourinho the new Moyes?) Somewhere


It’s not racism at all
I wonder whether Matthew from Washington DC has ever considered that some people, myself included, aren’t too fond of Sturridge because he’s a selfish so-and-so on the pitch who often seems much more concerned with his own performance than the team’s? Also, you suggest that England is tearing itself to bits because of racism. I assume you mean people being genuinely worried about mass immigration and the negative effects that can have. Is that racist? At the same time it’s ironic that the racist English don’t mind playing only two white outfield players in the u-19 England team that just competed in the European Championships. What would you be saying if there were only two non-white players in the team? To summarise, Matthew, stop stirring up racial hatred and stop talking out of your arse.
G Thomas, Holland


Sunday’s mailer back already
I’m well aware my letter may have touched a nerve. To say this was an accident would be disingenuous: I wrote it for the singular purpose of provoking a reaction about a sensitive topic. But outside of my own personal motivations, which by nature are quite literally personal there’s something I’d like to point out. The letter contained a couple of genuine grammatical errors. There were stylistic issues certainly, I’ll admit that too but there’s one part that I want to make clear was by design not a typo.

‘Then ask him if he’s ever considered that it might, and this is key, for many people be related to the color of his skin? Many people. Not everyone. Not you. CERTAINLY ME. I can’t think of any legitimate reason why I’m not absolutely thrilled about the prospect of a fit Daniel Sturridge working with Jurgen Klopp. I don’t need to quote Einstein to prove that people much smarter than me are pretty adamant that we should consider the things we maybe don’t want to but at what point did Daniel Sturridge become a problem?’

Added capitals to emphasize the dichotomy here. I’m acknowledging that I took a good long look at this issue; devoted some time and effort to arrive at the conclusions I did. I’m not sure how else to better illustrate that I’m not trying to absolve myself of blame; I have an inherent bias towards things like everyone else does. What this is however, is a logically structured analysis and right or wrong it’s difficult to disprove another person’s genuine attempt at objective analysis relying solely on your own personal opinion.

I know the Twittershpere is in many ways anathema to academic inquiry. Or perhaps just a platform from which to display an almost pathological lack of imagination. That’s largely irrelevant to me. I’m not trolling anyone. aybe I’m merely asking if anyone has sat down and done the same thing I did after the tone of public abuse Raheem Sterling was subjected to took on a nasty turn towards the paternalistic with a splash of bitter resentments.
Matthew LFC Washington DC


AM9 for Arsenal: Fan action needed
For those that missed the news Anthony is possibly a bit put out the club has taken his shirt number away from him.

There is a potential gap at Arsenal for a number 9, so here is a chance for us fans to make a difference – can someone with more tech abilities than me start a campaign for the fans at Arsenal to show how much we want Anthony Martial at Ashburton Grove next season. Twitter account, Facebook, Instagram, grass roots meeting at the pubs (I am available for Australian meetings) etc but also a crowd funding site for us fans to raise the money to pay for his shirt for the whole season (if the club is making a saving on that they may be able to anti up the fee – it all helps.)

Now no one wants an unhappy player at their club so you Man U fans know it makes sense for AM9 to come to Arsenal to keep his development up before the number 9 becomes available at Real or Barca (so we will accept donations from Man U fans too).

Come on fellow Gooners let’s sign someone we actually want, who knows maybe Jose will throw in Rashford because we know he wont actually be using him on the field.
Murray (setting the brands free since ’03) Whiteford


Dear Manchester United…
Seriously, no. Don’t bother. Walk away. Don’t fall for it. If you walk away and he wants to move to you; he will agitate. The price may then come down – a bit. If you walk away and he says he’s happy to stay, then he’s not really that interested; probably wants Madrid’; just let him go.

He didn’t win the European Championship single-handed. He was good in the European Cup Final he got to, but still not a winner. He is not all that.

Build a team. You’ve got good players. You have some exceptional players. Put the money into an experienced stop gap at a fraction of the price. Put the rest into improving your scouting and pushing your academy facilities to the next level. At the moment Mr Woodward, you are acting like a 12-year-old on Football Manager with a cheat code. Scrub that, a 12-year-old has more ability. A six-year-old, who has only heard of a few players. Why not get Messi too?

After two good bits of business, the club are behaving like nouveau riche plebs. “120 million you say, well in that case what’s another 10 million, Manchester? We can then buy the canteen staff Ferraris and laugh in your face when you come second in the league.” That’s what they’re saying to you Woodward, you Michael Gove lookey-likey, know nothing about football, bird brain.
Stu, North Yorkshire (I’m glad I got that off my chest)


Just accept the silly money
With due respect to a legend like Scholes, paying a transfer fee is a business decision. Just like a manager doesn’t want (and need) a Chairman/CEO/President’s nose in tactics and what happens on the field, business decisions are better left upstairs.

Whether Pogba is worth 100 million is not just a question of how many goals or assists he would contribute. A number of business parameters are in play. True, none of us like the way the game has gone and the importance played by money in today’s game but that is the bitter truth. It is here to stay and while you are at it, better be good at it rather than basing decisions worth 100 million quid on the opinion of one person or on the number of goals/assists he is going to get.
Sportica, MUFC


The England Show: A comedy
Seeing the appointment of The Big One as England manager over the last week or so, and having had the weekend to digest the news, it has now comprehensively ushered me into a new way of supporting the national team. This has been a process that started in earnest whilst watching England vs Iceland, during which I couldn’t help but let out a genuine laugh as Iceland’s goals went in. Laughs which I quickly stifled, naturally, as I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of some rough-housing from the Jacamo dressed, pub dwelling locals.

It’s not that I wasn’t disappointed at England’s exit, I was, very much so. But I just couldn’t help but laugh at such a perfectly delivered performance of tragi-comedy. In many ways it felt like England did read the script, written by Larry David, and completely nailed it. Rooney’s pinball wizard routine with the ball in the later stages of the Iceland game was perfect slapstick and an absolute joy to watch; Roy Hodgson realising the camera was on him and then feigning an exaggerated expression of chin-stroking competence whilst 2-1 down – impeccable timing and delivery; Harry Kane showing us his comedy chops with a flawless impression of a prison nutcase shanking everything in sight – genius; Daniel Sturridge doing the dance.

And now here we are, after yet another incredible season of The England Show the cast is being announced for the next one. With Allardyce in the lead role it promises to be an absolute gem. Highlights that I’m personally looking forward to are Andy Carroll leaping for a header and then accidently head-butting the crossbar at full tilt; James Milner to literally forget he’s in the middle of a football match and just start legging it up and down the pitch; Rooney to attempt an 80-yard Hollywood pass every time he gets the ball, even if he’s straight through on goal for an easy tap-in; Andros Townsend to repeatedly cut inside and blaze one over the crossbar in that comedy style where something is funny then stops being funny and is then funny again because you can’t believe it’s still happening; Jermaine Defoe offering to take goal kicks so that he can have a shot at goal but still managing to be offside.

This is how I’ve decided to support England from now on, as a loving fan of the brand of comedy that no other team seems quite able to deliver. It’s far more rewarding that way.
Michael, AFC, Crawley


Underrated goal ahoy
Got to be the Torres volley against Blackburn.

Really showcased what he was about as a player, and while it has a touch of the Cissés about it, to me it just demonstrated his total awareness on the pitch, as he wasn’t the sort of player to “just hit it” as Cissé did.

He’s moving away from goal (similar to Thierry) yet still manages to wrap his foot around the ball despite taking the ball on his wrong side. Another player would have controlled the ball and lost it on the inside, but his confidence meant he wasn’t bothered about getting himself into a hard situation, and the technique, from the timing of the run, completely evading the left-back and centre-half, show that he was at times, literally unstoppable.
KC (the hairstyle maketh the man)


Names on football shirts
Hope I’m not too late with this mail. Back in my school days one of my mates (Gareth Packham) was a Villa fan and plumped for Angel with number 8 on the back. The following season Angel had changed number to 18. Instead of buying a new shirt he simply had ‘TEEN’ printed under the number 8.
Marc Stringer

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