Archive for August 2014

The LMA’s statement: a power move that may backfire.

They are laughing at us. I am beginning to think that, in some boardroom in some part of London, behind tinted windows and a table decorated only with a bowl of untouched imperial mints, they are laughing at us; they being whoever at the League Managers Association (LMA) carefully put together their statement in defence of the comments of Malky Mackay. What other conclusion can be drawn? When the final text of that press release was approved and dispatched, it may as well have been accompanied with a collective cackle from the assembled group of male white heterosexual Gentiles. There’s just no other way that the LMA’s strategy makes sense. To state a case so boldly as this, in the face of predictable public outrage, is nothing other than a supreme power move.

A brief paragraph to bring anyone up to speed who is not aware of the story in question. The former Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay has just been reported to the Football Association for allegedly sending text messages that have been construed as offensive to gay people, black people, Asian people, Jews and women.  The LMA, in the words of its website, is “the collective, representative voice of all managers from the Barclays Premier League, the Sky Bet Championship and Sky Bet Leagues 1 and 2”. As that voice, one of their key six aims is to “protect the rights and privileges of its members.” In offering such protection, they described Mackay’s messages as “letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter”. The statement has been superbly dissected by two football writers, Henry Winter and Seb Stafford-Bloor (the owner of the Premier League Owl website), and you can read their analyses at @henrywinter and @premleagueowl or at the footnotes below this post.

Let’s now consider the further implications of the LMA’s statement – which reads as an expression of contempt not only for gay people, black people, Asian people, Jews and women, but for absolutely anyone who cares about them. That’s a lot of people to offend and think that you can get away with it. It’s a spectacular level of entitlement, of belief in your infallibility. The LMA seems to think, given its representation of all those managers and given all those commercial partnerships that it apparently enjoys, that its position is unassailable. It has gambled that each of its members – whose voice it after all claims to be – will agree that: “nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers” is just the kind of thing that you casually come out with when faced with the pressures of football management. It has bet that none of its members will be offended by the LMA’s dismissal of the phrase “fkn Chinkys” as “friendly banter”.

Well, that’s a big wager; and it’s a wager that will doubtless be put to the test by a range of journalists at press conferences or in private correspondence over the next few days, or as long as this news cycle lasts. One wonders, too, how the LMA’s sponsors – themselves multinational companies with diverse workforces – will view all this. And as if that wasn’t enough, the LMA has one other thing to worry about. Its statement seems to be a perfect representation of what the Macpherson report, in considering the murder of Stephen Lawrence, described as “institutional racism”. In that report, institutional racism was defined as:

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

The LMA’s sixth and final major aim on its website – mentioned last of all, as if an afterthought – is “to encourage honourable practice, conduct and courtesy in all professional activity”. Yet its most recent pronouncement appears to be doing precisely the opposite. It may well be that this all blows over soon enough. But in their boardroom, or wherever they are, they might not be well-advised to smirk just yet.



1. Mackay messages:

2. LMA statement on Mackay messages:

3. Henry Winter analysis of LMA statement:

4. Premier League Owl analysis of LMA statement:

5. LMA’s six major aims:


A growing fear for Captain Ronald Johnson.

Captain Ronald Johnson, by most accounts and all appearances, is a brave, decent, and compassionate man: and that’s why I fear for him. Over the last few days, Johnson has emerged as a key figure in the standoff between the mostly aggressive police and the mostly peaceful public, hugging here, speaking and mediating there. It is an example of which his fellow officers should be proud. Unfortunately, recent events suggest that he is the exception to the rule. Whilst he calls for calm, his colleagues behave with an unbridled belligerence. He has therefore become the reasonable face, the acceptable face, of his region’s police force, a role which has an inherent danger. He is the proud, eloquent, dignified African-American to whom the protesters’ critics can now point and, however inaccurately, can say: “Look at the dignity with which he turns the other cheek.  Look how commendable he is under fire. He is the standard by which your dissent is now judged.”

I fear for Captain Johnson because, given his prominent role in Ferguson, he may become a focal point for discontent if a detailed investigation into Mike Brown’s death is not forthcoming. Part of the reason that he has been trusted to dissipate tension is that there is a sense that his actions are part of a march towards justice, or at least a clarity as to what happened that afternoon when an unarmed black teen was gunned down. Yet I suspect that there are those in Johnson’s police force who see his efforts not as a catalyst for progress, but as an end in themselves: that if he merely stands in front of enough crowds, if he makes enough beautifully empathetic appeals, then the problem will go away.

I do not envy Captain Johnson his role. He is surely not naive as to the difficulties expressed above, seeing his intervention as vital to alleviate his community’s concerns but also wary that he may be seen merely as the front for an organisation burrowing itself ever further into national disrepute. He must also be aware that, in a twist of irony, his name and face are far more readily identifiable with the events following Mike Brown’s death than the name and face of Mike Brown’s killer.

For this reason, I was happy to see that some people defied the curfew imposed by Ferguson’s police last night. Not because I wish Captain Johnson any professional embarrassment, or any ill to the protesters who stayed out after midnight: but because these activists further exposed the feral obstruction of justice by police for whose deceit Captain Johnson’s humanity has become the unwitting shield. As those police withhold Darren Wilson, the man who shot Mike Brown dead, from the scrutiny of the law, Captain Johnson’s role looks increasingly forlorn, which is exactly as many of them seem to want it: that he should be one more blast of tactical tear gas, one more strategic smoke bomb, that prevents us from staring unrestrained at the truth.

For Mike Brown: The black boy is the new nuclear deterrent.

The black boy is the new nuclear deterrent.

Rogue states have been watching America with interest,
Where it seems that a young Black man can be weaponised
Just by walking home.
The black boy is so terrifying to America,
That now all of its enemies want one.
North Korea has just put in an order,
Offering twenty thousand black boys and their families
Free schooling, room and board,
In return for their promise that, when America next threaten sanctions,
They will march to the centre of Pyongyang, put on their hoodies,
Look into CNN’s quivering cameras, and scowl.
The black boy is the new nuclear warhead.
He is so dangerous that American police will try anything to stop him going off,
Every time he steps outside.
To stop him, these brave, brave policemen,
Working deep under the cover of anonymity,
Will leave no bullet unfired,
And after he has been defused
No grieving parent will be left unharassed,
No community left unteargassed.
The black boy is the new nuclear deterrent:
Nuke is the new black.
Now black women are becoming a threat too:
Each womb of theirs, an undeclared arsenal.
Iran are sending cheques to African-American mothers pregnant with sons,
Along with notes saying that, “look, when the boy grows up,
Come with him to us, we’ll never need to set off another bomb again.
We’ll give you a nice villa in Tehran,
And every day the overhead US drones
Will quake at the sight of him merely falling in love, or shooting hoops.”
So black boys can relax, since their deaths are not in vain;
For at least they’re now a weapon
Their own suburbs can’t contain.






A World War One post: “Lights out; but also, lights on.”

Lights out; but also, lights on.
Lights should be shone into every corner,
Into every corner of each battlefield
and each soul of those sending them to die.
Lights should go on in our minds,
when we recognise the pattern of all this happening again.
Lights on in Israel-Palestine, Ukraine; in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria;
Lights on in South Sudan, in Congo;
Lights on in the regions of our globe
That our tongues and our history books do not yet know,
but soon will.
So lights on for the Central African Republic,
For the Rohingya and for West Papua,
Because this is War;
A virus in endless search of new hosts,
Settling on those who have not yet developed resistance,
Whilst those who survive it
Are not yet eager enough to share the cure.