“Dark as the midnight hour or bright as the mornin’ sun
Give a fuck about your complexion” – Kendrick Lamar
The world is in a weird state of flux now. The political spectrum is battling across the world with the right sweeping to power. The presence of racism is becoming more and more fervent with these types in power. Yet even in these times, you’d still be hard pushed to find as criminally overt racism showcased when Kelvin Mackenzie, a journalist, compared Ross Barkley to a gorilla. If you do not know, Barkley is quarter Nigerian and thus has black in him. The reaction that came from the article was, accordingly, one of fury and outrage that such a distasteful comparison could be written and then vetted to be good enough for publication.
Why was it allowed? In my opinion, the answer is obvious to me. Barkley does not look black. He is only quarter Nigerian. To the eye of the layman, Barkley would not be considered black. In fact, a lot of the comments pointed to the fact that this would have flown over their heads. Mackenzie probably thought he would be able to get away with it for this reason. I heavily doubt that the journalist had no idea of the mixed ethnicity of the Everton midfielder, just based on the man himself (how he is still even allowed to be an accredited journalist is unfathomable). However, this draws to a wider point about getting away with it. There was much proclamation of Mackenzie not being indicative of journalists and they are correct. If he wanted to do so, he would have just published thinly veiled attacks on black players for their affluence and enjoying success, for black players really just have to deal with increased scrutiny on and off the field of play.
Golden Boy’s silver bathroom
The easiest example is Raheem Sterling. European Golden Boy of 2014 has had a permanent target on his back since he started contract negotiations with Liverpool FC. Liverpool and Sterling’s agent played games in the press about the state of the negotiations. By 18th May 2015, it had been made clear that Sterling was angling his way out of Anfield. Long story short, Sterling earned his move away to Manchester City. Yet, the transfer saga culminating in his £49m transfer has always hung over his head. As Carragher passionately quipped on the MNF that 18th May, 19 year old Raheem Sterling was seen as ‘taking on’ Liverpool. We all know how stacked the media machine is with Liverpool support and the derision he received was predictable. A quick Google search of “Mark Lawrenson Sterling” points to such
The more sinister aspects came with Sterling then being booed at away grounds… that were not Anfield. The winger was made out to be the first ever player to push his way out of a club. A particular Uruguayan bit his way of that same club as Sterling but I digress. It has become embarrassing the way the media has reported Sterling’s every move off the pitch. He came in a car too expensive. He shopped in a supermarket too cheap. He bought a house(for his mother) too close to England being embarrassed at the Euros. The country loved a scapegoat and Sterling was incredibly paraded as one. That is in no way a suggestion that Sterling performed to any sort of acceptable level in that Euros but who did? Kane and Alli comfortably stunk out the joint more than Sterling could, if he had tried and yet they were let off with relative slaps on the wrist compared to the winger.
All they see
The man of Jamaican descent is not the only one. Paul Pogba has been treated with this disdain for his social media activity. Tom Cleverley was left alone to start a brand and website by the press. TC23 was established after about five minutes of being a first teamer for Man Utd. He was nicknamed “The Brand” by United supporters but got little criticism elsewhere. Obviously, the recognition of what Pogba and Cleverley do is completely different but it was only until Cleverley went that he was talked of in any sort of manner as Pogba has been done in the press.
Romelu Lukaku was treated to the expensive car treatment after it was reported that he would not sign another contract with Everton. John Stones put in a transfer request at Everton to move to Chelsea in 2015 and was not subject to expensive car test the next day. The ball playing CB eventually got his move up, to City though, and it was without screams of being called a money grabber & being booed at grounds around the country, as Sterling did.
Memphis Depay managed to get it neck for a year whilst barely kicking a ball, especially from Samuel Luckhurst, the man who suggested that Memphis be called by Depay , until he played better. Luckhurst knew full well why Memphis no longer wanted association with the surname, due to his absence father, but continued in this nasty attack anyway. Dele Alli was allowed to detach himself from his second name due to a ‘lack of connection’ to it. We will have to wait and see if we will have to refer to him as Alli again, if this incredible form of his drops.
In general, there seems to be an issue with prominent and talented black footballers in this country being able to be what they are. Footballers in general will have increased attention on what they do simply because of the job they do but the ‘covert’ digs at the black footballers in the press is becoming something of an issue with me and many others. We already have to contend with the fact that every and any show of extraordinary technical ability and flair is ignored with the majority of black footballers being reduced to physical ability alone. The last time Yaya Toure powered through midfield was during that 4-0 win over Aston Villa that all but confirmed the title for Man City back in 2014 and yet it is still his physical attributes that is marvelled at.
Going back to Sterling and Lawrenson for that matter, the latter’s claim of Sterling’s barrier to becoming a top class player being his lack of understanding is remarkable. Lawrenson’s quote as whole of him never going to be able ‘understand the game’. Sterling apparently does not realise ‘what he does and how he does it, he is purely reactive and instinctive.’ Sterling, the player Rodgers would put up vs the opponent’s best full back as his movement would destroy them. Sterling, the player Rodgers and Hodgson played as a No.10 because of his incisive movement and decision making. If one thing of Sterling’s ability could be marvelled at, it would be his tactical awareness and intelligence. It stunk of the incredibly generalised prejudicial comments on Rudiger by Stefano Eranio accusing the black players in general of being unable to concentrate and thinking correctly in a defensive line. Excellent physical attributes that are not able to be utilised cause of their race
The grey between the black and white
As Seb Stafford-Bloor states in his sensational piece on why the Pogba has such a hard time in the media, he writes simply “to be young, black and successful is to be held to a different standard” and these words hold the most truth. The examples here are of players no more than 24 years old. This isn’t the only reason why they will get it but I see it exacerbating the extent to which these journalists perform hatchet jobs on these talented black footballers.
Yet when I look through and think of Barkley’s treatment in comparison, he does not seem to get it in the same way. I love the Everton midfielder as a talent but even he knows that his decision making is erratic, at best but he is not accused of not understanding the game or relying heavily on his physical stature. Barkley’s in the grips of the contract negotiations now and he looks like he also does not want to sign like Lukaku yet there has been little furore over this. Barkley has outwardly used social media to complain about the lack of action in an England shirt but still nothing to scathing of him. Why? In my opinion, the answer is obvious to me. Barkley does not look black. He is only quarter Nigerian. To the eye of the layman, Barkley would not be considered black.