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ITHICS Fanzine: Has fan behaviour taken a backward step?

“A section of our fans seem hell bent on doing the politically incorrect thing - as if it’s a badge of honour” says Nic Wiseman, editor of cult 90s Sunderland fanzine “It’s The Hope I Can’t Stand”.

Danny Roberts

On Friday, among the inevitable debates regarding what occurred on the pitch, there were just as many discussing events in the stands.

Most of these comments were in relation to the song sung by our supporters to celebrate Diallo in light of his recent performances. For those of you not au fait with the song (I wasn’t), it includes a reference that goes down the path of racial stereotyping.

Those who were quick to point this out, were largely met with derision - “Snowflake” was one of the kinder words used in the ensuing “debate”.

Many justified the lyrics by saying it was complimentary to the player, but this is akin saying to a woman that she’s being paid a compliment by being told how big her breasts are.

Are we really going back to the days when female programme sellers/police officers who walked around the pitch at Roker Park to be serenaded with the jolly little ditty “get your t*ts out for the lads”?

A large portion of the argument laid out by those who defended what came from the stand, was that the player himself was dancing along to the song. But I seriously question whether the 20-year-old Ivorian player who manager, Tony Mowbray, has said, has only just started integrating with English-speaking players, actually understands anything of the song: apart from his name being sung.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

This discussion is taking a step back in time to when the red top newspapers openly discussed Linford Christie’s “lunchbox”, during the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Which took the shine from his considerable achievement of winning the 100m gold medal.

Two women on my Twitter timeline have expressed their distaste for it. It’s a racist trope which should be confined to history.

As is racism in general. A section of our fans seem hell bent on doing the politically incorrect thing. As if it’s a badge of honour. Witness the booing of opposing teams taking the knee.

I’ve already vented my spleen on this issue, on these pages. It is embarrassing to be associated with a club whose players not only don’t take the knee, but whose supporters boo opposing players who do so.

On a recent Roker Rapport podcast, it was discussed that the argument for taking the knee as being a proxy for political movements like black lives matter, is outdated. It is now generally accepted that taking the knee is a gesture of solidarity against racism and injustice in society. Anyone with an ounce of common decency should be applauding the gesture, not booing it.

1992 Olympics - Men’s 100 Meters
Linford Christie celebrates winning the Men’s 100 meters at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona
Photograph by David Madison/Getty Images

Supporter behaviour has also come under scrutiny elsewhere in the stadium. Photographer, Ross Johnston, from RJX media, tweeted his experience of being hit with missiles thrown from the crowd. After the Cardiff game, objects were thrown from the South Stand and I saw something get thrown from the North Stand towards the Cardiff goalkeeper, which he actually caught. Some of our fans seem more intent in goading the away fans than watching the game.

We complain about away fans throwing things from the upper tier of the North Stand, but we have to put our own house in order if we call out other fans.

While we’re here, I still don’t understand why the away fans were put in the top of the North Stand. The Black Cats bar is at the back of the stand and the stand magnifies their singing. There’s a police cell in the south stand. Just hoy the away fans back in the South West Corner.

I don’t think it’s just a Sunderland problem. In society in general, people have become emboldened to voice unpalatable views due to the mainstreaming of the likes of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump.

The stewarding of the stadium is done by inexperienced teens who don’t have the authority to police such matters. The club has improved immeasurably on the field and has stadium maintenance issues to address as well. But fans need to improve their behaviour before our reputation goes down the toilet.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Sunderland v Cardiff City - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers - PA Images via Getty Images

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