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Sunderland AFC’s positive reaction to fans’ calls for anti-racism stance is a welcome one

“Judge us by our actions, and on Saturday, we’ll stand and applaud all the players - Wycombe as well as Sunderland - who choose to take the knee in solidarity with the victims of racism and discrimination everywhere.”

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In the wake of a week in which Sunderland AFC’s commitment to anti-racism has been in the spotlight following the booing of players taking the knee by a minority of supporters at recent matches, on Thursday evening the club released a strong statement committing themselves to the fight against discrimination at our football club.

Sunderland AFC’s players, staff and supporters’ groups stand together in the fight against racism and all other forms of discrimination.

As a collective, we are disappointed that a small minority of supporters have chosen to boo players that have taken the knee ahead of kick-off at the Stadium of Light and away from home.

We will continue to empower each individual to make their own decisions and support them wholeheartedly in any action they take to help eradicate all forms of discrimination from our society, including taking, or not taking, the knee.

We urge those who have booed to reflect on the impact this has on players, staff and their fellow supporters and we commend those who, upon hearing the booing, have reacted positively to show that our players are not alone in their fight against discrimination.

Our message is loud and clear that all forms of discrimination are completely unacceptable and have no place within our football club or within our community.

Together, we are Sunderland.

We ask you to support our team, support our players and support each other in our efforts to end racism and discrimination.

This is a very welcome but long overdue development, which comes following discussions between the club hierarchy and the Red & White Army Supporters Trust over the most appropriate way to respond to calls by fanzines and supporters on social media for the club to condemn the pre-match booing.

I wrote my article yesterday after talking to lots of people about this issue - it was the result of the ideas and input of a range of Roker Report writers and podcasters as well as some of my close friends and family. I did expect it to provoke discussion and debate - and I’d anticipated some of the vitriol that I’ve read too - but what always surprises me, although it really shouldn’t, is the power of collective action to make change in the world.

This is a small victory, but one that will only have meaning if we all remain solid in their support of players on Saturday and at every other game as they make their own gestures of solidarity against all forms of racism. Racism in football and in the wider world will not end overnight, but having the support of our club and our Supporters Trust should give us the confidence to continue to keep on talking and explaining and acting against discrimination whenever we can. Roker Report will continue to write about this. We will continue to refuse to publish letters that peddle lies and misinformation. We hope our readers will continue to talk in a civilised manner, both in the below-the-line comments and on social media, about racism and share their experiences. Every time we do so we take one more step towards a game and a society where people are not subjected to systemic or interpersonal racism.

One of the nicest messages I’ve received on this topic has been from Malcolm Bramley, former Assistant Club Secretary and chair of the Senior Supporters Association, who emailed his 250 members in support of my article yesterday. He had 85 positive responses and no negative ones.

Don’t judge Sunderland fans by the neo-facists who try to use our club to spread their message of hatred.

Neo-Nazi clowns

Don’t judge Sunderland fans by the idiotic comments on Facebook or wherever else you might see them. Judge us by our actions, and on Saturday, we’ll stand and applaud all the players - Wycombe as well as Sunderland - who choose to take the knee in solidarity with the victims of racism and discrimination everywhere.

Solidarity, brothers and sisters, is all we have.

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