by Chris Tobin

In a weekend that has seen high profile professional footballers deciding in my opinion to hijack the Kick It Out campaign, in what can only be seen as an attempt to put down their own markers as regard that very campaign, has the smaller picture been exaggerated in losing sight in the confusion that has clearly taken place over the last few days?

If as some journalists and football managers are to have their opinions thrown at football supporters and those who perhaps only support and have an interest in social injustice, then surely we must not just look at this weekend in isolation, which seems to be happening. The rage that Sir Alex Ferguson was to clearly show before this weekend’s game when asked about Jason Roberts’s intention and further on when Rio Ferdinand was to also offer his support to Roberts and others stance, when not wearing the Kick It Out T-shirts.

T-shirts and the controversy that surrounds them are not new to football, one need only look back at the furore aimed at Liverpool’s black player Glen Johnson when he chose to wear a shirt to show his support of Luis Suarez pre his FA conviction for using racist language toward Patrice Evra, you may remember the condemnation from Jason Roberts, quite a different stance when he believes he personally has the right/choice to decide to wear or not wear a particular T-shirt in support of the Kick It Out campaign. Whilst we are on the subject of Patrice Evra, a footballer who has been on the end of racism but did decide to support the campaign by choosing to wear the shirt, which could be seen as an endorsement of the campaign.

Surely if you support players in the way that many in the media and football have, praising them in having their own minds and if they disagree with something allowing them the right to decide against conformity then surely what must also happen; they must decide to leave their own union which openly and financially supports the charity concerned – When and where does their actual support end?

The harm that these individuals and clubs have done the campaign is insurmountable. If they have an issue with the FA or even individual members of their union then they should have the courage of their convictions and explain what this is, don’t hide behind the Kick It Out campaign with the pretence of courage, when in fact you are actually cowards, quite happy to have the campaign on your backs when it suits you but being unable to give it your support at its most difficult hour – cowards and most probably hypocrites.

Why did none of these players decide to stand up alongside Joleon Lescott who has not worn the Kick It Out T-shirt since 2007 after an incident at Newcastle when it was alleged Newcastle’s Emre racially abused Joseph Yobo. Lescott was to give written evidence in this case which would accumulate with no charges and no punishment for Emre – So where were Jason Roberts, and Rio Ferdinand with their support of their fellow professional, and the holier than thou media? They were silent.

Using a charity in highlighting one’s own grievance is a very low act, whether you agree or disagree with what it stands for. Why not speak up for what your gripes are but don’t do it on the back of someone else’s ride? Seeing whole squads refusing to support the campaign in a most petulant way, cannot make anyone feel good about such a protest; it surely belongs in a playground.

If as I fear is actually the case, that these players are unhappy with the FA and its approach to racism in football and perhaps the attitude of some players who have been accused of such acts, surely then take this out with those individuals or organisations – knocking down the wrong doors, as big a case of mistaken identity for sure.

With interest David James was to state his opinion a week earlier that the anti-racism brigade were “justifying their existence by exaggerating the issue” at least he was honest enough to state his opinion honestly, even if he were once one of Kick Racism Out biggest supporters, many other older players have also voiced their opinions with the majority of the opinion that players should stick together, Ian Wright one of the most high profile to support the campaign.

Has the FA let down its players and supporters? Yes, alongside The Professional Footballers Association which again has to look toward its own leadership, when it clearly finds itself unable to critic its own members out of some misplaced loyalty, we need only go back to the 70s and 80s when black and mixed race players were being abused racially most Saturday afternoons, John Barnes having to dance around banana’s in an attempt to get to the by-line,  players like Cyril Regis and the late Laurie Cunningham being constantly abused – God knows how these players would have loved to be playing in a time when such behaviour is non-existent, perhaps todays pampered stars have forgotten how far the campaign has come – perfect no, but it has come a long way.

My own fear is that not only is this the death nail in the Kick It Out charity, which incidentally does not just deal with racism, a point that may well be lost on today’s players who obviously feel it does not fully represent them, could this also see the end of the PFA as we know it, the real culprit in this sorry story, policing yourself is never a good idea, not being open and accountable and a stance of such arrogance toward any outside regulation of its members. Hopefully the house of cards comes tumbling down.

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