Dear Roker Report,
I’ve been putting this off for ages, but there’s something I’d really like Roker Report to address in some form, and that is the matter of racism amongst Sunderland fans.
I’ve noticed it for years, just little comments here and there. It’s always directed at a black player who makes a mistake or who the fans don’t like.
When we played Notts County in the FA cup in January 2011, and Paul Ince was their manager, I heard Sunderland fans making racist comments about him.
They have always and always will be players who the fans don’t like, with some justification. Ashley Cole, Darren Bent and El Hadji Diouf are hardly model professionals and quite rightly get some stick from the fans. But there is absolutely no need to start making derogatory comments about the colour of their skin. You would be perfectly correct to call Darren Bent a greedy b*stard. But is there any need to call him a greedy black b*stard? What had the colour of his skin got to do with anything?
Other loathsome individuals have come to the Stadium of Light in recent years - such as Joey Barton and John Terry - and they get plenty of stick too, but no comments about the colour of their skin.
Even our own players are not exempt. Jozy Altidore was an absolute donkey, one of the worst strikers to pull on the red and white shirt in my memory. Victor Anichebe wasn’t much better. Neither was James Vaughan. Or Danny Graham. All four got slated by the fans for their inadequacy, rightly so. But only three had their skin colour brought into the insults.
Our Asian players have had it too. I heard someone once remark that Wahbi Khazri had a “nice tan”. Hilarious. Ji Dong-Won and Ki Seung-Yeung (both of them South Koreans) had stupid comments about “Chinks” and “Japs” made about them.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the match against Newcastle Under-21s the other week. I was not in my usual seat. I was in the Roker End, and for most of the game the atmosphere was good. But Newcastle had a lot of black players playing for them, and the people around me made racist comments all game about the Newcastle players.
I understand that giving opposition players stick is all part of the game, and most of the time is good clean fun. I understand that most fans are not racist at all and would never say anything of the sort outside a football ground. But racist jokes aren’t funny. Racist stick is not part of the game. If it’s not okay to say racist things on a day-to-day basis, it’s not okay to say them during the 90 minutes between the first whistle and the last.
We need a renewed effort to rid Sunderland of this attitude which says it is okay.
I’m a white, working class lad from a former pit village in County Durham. There were no black people where I grew up in the late 1990s/early 2000s. But it’s surely just common decency to know that this isn’t acceptable?
My fellow Mackems make racist comments game after game, and I’m sick of it.
Yours in disgust,
Benjamin Eckford (Age 23, season ticket holder 2010-present)
Ed’s Note [JN]: This is unfortunately a massive issue all throughout the game. I myself have heard a plethora of differing racist comments and insults directed towards players, fans and club staff of both Sunderland and the opposition. Yet, it’s not just isolated at Sunderland.
The whole game in the world over is blighted by bigotry and racism, but luckily up here at Sunderland it seems to be a disgusting, but incredibly vocal minority. Sometimes the blunt honesty and passion (which is in itself double-edged) is a massive issue, but racism needs given no excuse.
We as football fans and as humans must take a stand against this whenever we hear it in person, and then again after the game on social media. It must be stamped out in both forms, as most anti-racism slogans are now part and parcel of the game and are sadly nowhere near as effective as good people standing up to those being racist.
I’ve always felt my own silence in the past made me partly complicit in the bigotry, and thus I always endear to speak against it, despite often getting irate comments made my way and asked to be “seen outside” by said fans on numerous occasions. It’s not nice, and to be honest at times intimidating, but these people need to be challenged on their views and singled out for what they are.
Assess the situation. Then you can either challenge them for their situation or tell a steward. Either must be done, and then also share the experience on social media, allow as many people to know about this abhorrent behaviour so we can all take a stand next time it happens.
Essentially, I’m bigoted against bigots.
To quote our own writer Craig Davies in an excellent report on racism just earlier in the season:
Sadly, the slow, volcanic return of visible and vitriolic racism and use of racist language in football is creeping its demonic head above the parapet of civility.
By the beginning of 2018, the reports of racist language and racist abuse at matches in England had increased 70% since 2012.
Much of the cause is above our own heads, with the monolithic media juggernauts ran by Murdoch’s evil empire responsible for causing division and hatred the country over. Brexit (whether or not you agree or disagree with the decision) has inflated divisions, and unfortunately discrimination is returning to the beautiful game at an alarming rate.
The best way of combating it is to speak out in order to kick it out. Either by direct confrontation or by telling the relevant authorities. Changing mentality is the most difficult, but long-term we can do it together.
Oppose bigots in order to oppose bigotry.