Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Politics Of Sport: Shaun Tuck's Islamophobia - Over To You, FA

By Shane Thomas

I had no plans to pen another post so soon after my last one, but the tragic recent events in Woolwich have put paid to that. So how does a violent murder connect with the world of sport?

Well, one of the disconcerting and predictable elements of the fallout has been verbal attacks and vicious reprisals towards non-whites, particularly Muslims. And one segment of this prejudice has come from footballer, Shaun Tuck, whose Twitter feed has revealed an alarming amount of what he thinks regarding non-football matters - Tuck's Twitter account has since been taken down.

For the full story, I would implore you to read this superb piece from Ian King on his 200% football blog. It gives a clear lowdown, not only on Tuck's bigoted tweets and support of the far-right EDL (English Defence League), but his past history of conduct as a player. In fact, you should read his blog post before reading any of mine.

Read it yet? Good, then we'll continue... oi, you at the back! I see you bookmarking King's post for later. Read it now. Then come back to me.

Thank you ...pffft, there's always one. Now that you've read King's piece, here's what I have to add:

I understand how many could feel apathetic towards Tuck's comments. After all, he's a non-League footballer. It's not as if he's a high-profile name like Wayne Rooney or Gareth Bale. Why should it matter what this clown has to say?

Well, it matters because any form of bigotry, anywhere, shouldn't be met with a shrug of the shoulders. While I don't want any kind of online flaming or physical harm to be aimed towards Tuck, we all have a responsibility to try to shine a spotlight on this behaviour, exposing its ugliness. As sportswriter, Dave Zirin (and many others) have said, choosing not to take a political stand is still taking a political stand.

And lest we forget, while Tuck plays for Witton Albion - a club that I imagine even some people in Witton have never heard of - it falls under the remit of the FA, English football's governing body. This is an organisation that has warranted criticism for the way it deals with issues of racism in the game.

Regardless of your thoughts on the John Terry and Luis Suarez incidents, the way the FA adjudicated the respective punishments for both men seemed to smack of decision making on the fly - Gary Neville's sardonic comment comparing they way they make judgements, as akin to the random nature of rolling a dice had a lot of merit to it.

So, if we are to believe that the FA are taking their new proposals for penalising those who commit acts of racism in the game seriously, then they have to be seen to take swift and stringent action against Tuck - it bears mention that UEFA (an organisation that is perceived to be lenient on racism) are set to introduce stiffer penalties than the FA.

The FA can't legislate for the opinions of its players, but they can - and must - set a clear delineation on what will, and won't, be accepted. It's saddening that we're more likely see examples of Islamophobia towards South Asians, than we are to see any South Asian players.

It shouldn't be forgotten that racism in football is generally accepted as a synonym for black issues. And while abuse towards black players is an important matter, it should also focus on the dearth of players from South Asia & the Middle East, and how infantile jokes about how all players from the Far East need to stand on a box to be at eye-level with their European counterparts still go unchecked.

At the time of writing, we await to see what punishment - if any - is taken against Tuck. And while I hope  that the FA are severe with their measures, they - and we - can't then sit back, and think we have a handle on bigotry in the game. It's just one step on a very large staircase. Football is England's national sport, and has a discernible influence on its social and cultural make-up. If we don't try to rid Islamophobia from our game, what does it say about us?

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