Racism on the terraces in 2018

It’s sad to have to write these words, but yesterday I got yet another taste of racism on our own terraces. Not coming from away fans and not being blamed on anyone other than followers of Lincoln City.

I want to start by saying we don’t have a serious problem as such, not a widespread one. I very rarely hear the sort of things I heard yesterday. I did hear it last year at Crewe and once again, I’m sadly having to write about racism. Not closet racism, not ‘I’m not a racist but’ moments, out and out racism more identifiable with the seventies.

Firstly, the incident. I want to describe it in as much detail as I may because already some have voiced concerns that I may be blowing it out of proportion. I’ve even had a woman block me on Facebook because she reported I’d heard ‘racist chanting’ and got incredibly offended when I called her out on sensationalising the situation. This isn’t sensationalism, it was one or two fans amongst 2,200, but I know what I heard, as did my mate Dave who was with me and other fans around us.

It was around 15 minutes into the game, David Amoo had just made one of our players look like a mug with a little flick and turn, but as he tore down the line a man somewhere in front of me shouted something along the lines of ‘get the monkey’. The one word I heard clearly and would put my life on being correct was ‘monkey’. It may have been get him, tackle him, kill him, something like that, but there was no mistaking the latter.

For a few seconds afterwards one or two of his mates joined in, laughing openly as they called him a ‘n***er’. Last year against Crewe I heard it once, but this was worse. There was no shame, no attempts to hide themselves. I suspect they thought a wider range of people might join in, instead one of their own group stepped in and told them they couldn’t talk like that in this day and age.

It didn’t stop the racist though and within thirty seconds he started again, beginning to sing something that started ‘zigger, zigger…’ but he was again stopped by two other members of the group this time. I’ll confess, I was trying not to look. Why? Fear, pure and simple. My mate Dave has a father of Indian descent and had I made any eye contact I was afraid the focus might turn around onto us. Afterwards, Dave told me he felt uncomfortable but absolutely understood why I didn’t say more and why those around me did not either.

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I know there will be those reading this asking why it wasn’t reported at the time. I did consider it at half time, my options were the stewards or the police. I saw a steward refuse to open a gate for a fan who wanted to leave, saying she didn’t have a radio and wouldn’t do anything she wasn’t told. The fan had to get a police officer to get her to open the gate. I wasn’t convinced of the quality of stewarding. Also, without wanting to sound arrogant, I understand I am more easily recognised than most and what could I do to help the police? Tell them I’d heard the comments and point in the general direction of fifty or sixty fans with no idea where they came from exactly? Stand at the front and point in the general direction of those I believed to be responsible. Sure, in the ideal world I would have done that but I didn’t. 

This was a high-profile fixture with lots of policing and in my opinion, this could have led to further trouble. Am I a coward? Maybe.  I discussed it at half time with a group of friends who felt that it needs highlighting, but that doing it there and then wouldn’t have been helpful. The group who was with the offender wouldn’t have told the police it was him, it would all have been incredibly nasty. Therefore I tweeted it, maybe as cowardly as breaking up with someone via text message or emailing an employee to tell them they’re sacked, but instead of going head to head with a big section of supporters, 99% of whom did not say those vile words, I used the tools I have available to me: nearly 3,000 followers and a well-read blog.

I have since reported it to the club with the information I did have, but what can they do? There’s no action that can be taken because I, nor anyone around me, could tell for sure who said it. It’s easy to hear on a packed terrace, but far more challenging to directly attribute. What I do know is elements within the group knew what happened was wrong and policed themselves internally. That is heartening, even if the occurrence is not.

So why raise it at all? Why bother even saying it had happened? Denial. People want to deny this happens, just like the woman on Facebook who essentially concluded I must have been mistaken. I write for a living, record pods and all sorts, I know that unless I’m 100% certain, never to make claims about what I hear. This happened, in 2018 someone still feels it acceptable to abuse a player from the opposite team based on his skin colour. Sadly, after tweeting my experiences, others have said they’ve heard the same, with one user saying he’d heard stuff like this directed at our own players. Can you imagine that? In 2018.

There’s few who would have acted different to me, despite the bravado. Not everyone can handle themselves, some (like Dave and me) are not renowned for being confrontational and putting ourselves in danger. I know that of the two or three who have admitted to hearing the same, there are fifty or sixty out there who have even chosen not to admit it and get involved. I may be viewed as weak for not confronting the offenders, for not making the scene there and then, but in that situation it is much harder to act than it is behind a keyboard or even after the game.

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Did I want a smack in the mouth for my troubles? No. I wasn’t going to ignore it and I’m fortunate to have some sort of vehicle by which to bring it to the wider audience, but there were plenty of others yesterday who didn’t want to get involved and that is their choice, their assessment of the situation. If it had turned on my mate Dave, or anyone else had been put in danger because of it then I would have got involved, but whilst it was being self policed I chose not to. Judge me if you so desire, but I wasn’t the one saying what was said.

As a fan base we have to keep educating those we feel we can. If you’re the sort who wants to stand up and get involved there and then, please do so. If you want to educate those closer to you and do it in non-confrontational ways, that is fine too. Please, don’t berate the club for not handing out bans when even those stood within fifteen feet couldn’t see who did it though. How on earth can they do anything? 

We all have a responsibility to suppress racism. Some people will never change, the sort of person who still thinks it is okay to shout n***er in the 21st century will never have his mind changed by a couple of t-shirts and an advert in the club programme. They won’t listen to me, some ginger twat writing a blog who wouldn’t confront them face to face and if I, or anyone around me had confronted them they wouldn’t have listened then either. They might listen to their mate who pulled them up on it at the game, or someone down the pub who knows a black boxer who would knock them out in a heartbeat. 

It left me saddened, maybe not only because I’d heard it but because I didn’t have the courage to go toe to toe with them there and then. I felt I’d let Dave down, David Amoo down and all of the different players we’ve had at City down the years. Maybe I did, maybe by writing this I’ll actually do some good, but the simple message here is this: racism is bad and discrimination is wrong.

This is not political correctness gone mad and it is not banter. It was vile racist abuse, mindless and abhorrent. Please, do not think for one second it has disappeared from our terraces because it has not. Racism is still alive in 2018 and I only hope that we can all continue to work together to stamp it out.

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Well said Gary and well done in highlighting this vile issue. There are a few racists in the Lincoln fans. At home in the Co-op stand there are one or two behind us in the stands. These people are in their sixties and should know better. I suspect several beers loosen their demented tongues . The reaction of the surrounding fans usually shuts them up quite quickly. There is another issue here and it is that there are little or no stewards in the Co-op upper 7, where we sit, throughout the home games. I don’t see the presence of stewards in any of the upper stand. This needs addressing and the club needs to put stewards in all areas and empower them to act when necessary and to be available for notifications of such behaviour !

  2. Well said. Never be afraid to bring incidents like this to the attention of proper fans and human beings. There is no place in society for these scum.

  3. What you are saying isn’t new.

    Although not common I have heard it on a few times in the last season directly at both our players and the opposition . Similarly I have heard many homophobic references too. Probably more so but this seems too be sadly swept under the carpet !

    • Exactly what I was going to comment. The amount of homophic abuse is horrendous and it is rarely addressed. My gay friends once came with me to a game (Woking, not Lincoln) and have not been since as various players were called p**fs for diving etc. The main “banta” directed at Brighton fans centres around boyfriend chants and items on HIV.

      This for me is where I contrast with racism in the game, as third gen Jamaican immigrant. This article, the fact it is two or three people, the fact it is infrequent, shows just how far we come. I am not sure you will ever really wipe it out, but my word strides have been made. The vast majority know it is wrong and do work to try and stop it which is brilliant. It is no longer the whole home support booing or lobbing bananas, or making chants. Unlike when Brighton play and the “we can see you holding hands” rings out. It is something people write about and lament. This was not so much the case in the 70s. Least we are now getting the point that when playing Spurs making chants about the holocaust is horrific. That used to be large sections until very recently.

      The real push for me is in other areas such as the negative press in the media Sterling gets. It is also in helping black players be managers. Not the Rooney rule, but pushing the boundaries to remove unconcious racism. I remember Keith Alexander saying he was blocked from going to a board room for a team as the bouncer just couldn’t believe he could be in a high power position.

      You will always get the idiots. There are idiots who take their children to games and swear and angrily shout at refs etc and you worry for the child. But you aren’t going to solve the problem just at the ground. Same goes for racism, it goes much deeper. It is just that at a game some people still think you can say it as anything goes.

  4. Well written piece and I totally empathise with you. Although “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” it is difficult to speak up in this scenario.

  5. This is a bigger problem than we like to believe. I reported the same season ticket holder at sincil bank three times for shouting the n word. The club did nothing: “not enough evidence.” It left me despondent and ashamed.

  6. I also believe that this is an increasing problem, although maybe not as bad as the old days where bananas were thrown onto the pitch and “shoot that n…..” was a common chant. That said, I empathise with the author’s dilemma about voicing his disquiet and although “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” not many people would have the courage to speak out, at the risk of a torrent of abuse from the perpetrator(s) I would hope that others in the crowd would back anyone up in this situation though!

  7. Gary, you have my full support. This is a minority of fans who think that because of the large support we have they can shout racial abuse and it’s drowned out in the general noise from the fans. Shame on them!

    If I see anyone doing it I will name and shame them……

    My name is Rick Keracher, I am with Gary on this.

  8. we are now getting regular high attendances…..surely if the problem of racism is growing then the club could invest in more stewarding/policing to actively look to identifying the culprits and to remove /prosecute them.
    You have a voice within the club on the Supporters forum,trust you will raise this.

  9. It is sad that this has made Gary feel guilty for not tackling the “knuckle dragger!” There is always a time and place for tackling ignorance and racism and there is always risk it can lead to violent confrontation and injury, no matter how well it is challenged. Racism is a societal issue and not necessarily a Lincoln City issue however we have a minority at our club who are ignorant and racist. I heard the N word at Crewe on boxing day directed at (Akinde),(it was clearly his fault we lost!) I heard four men at an England (Old Trafford)Cricket game celebrate the deaths of immigrants at Grenfell Tower and I confronted a racist on a train in Glasgow as he verbally abused a Sri Lankan nurse and threw coins at her. I was rescued on that occasions by four fellow passengers who threw the idiot off the train when he tried to assault me! On the other two occasions I have felt sick and moved away. We all have a lot of work to do and I feel the present political climate has almost given people confidence to voice beliefs/attitudes that have been buried for years. Enough is Enough.

  10. Well done on highlighting the issue, it’s 100% true that racism is still there & therefore, still a problem.
    I’ve heard it myself, not at Cambridge, but other places. I’ve never heard it at the bank, but away from home it seems more acceptable for some reason.
    Gary, you shouldn’t feel you let anyone down. You didn’t, the clown shouting it let us all down, not you.

  11. You have done the right thing by putting it in print. It is now there for those in authority to see and decide on a course of action to eradicate this intolerable behaviour.

  12. 100% with you. As are the vast majority. I called out some yobbish behaviour at Cheltenham last season and got some grief (although more support). Keep up the good work

  13. I’ve not heard it myself, but I have heard a lady vehemently respond to some mindless moron venting his bilious spleen. This was in Coop Lower,so I assume the culprit was in that area. I am saddened that it involves people from my generation, but it doesn’t surprise me. Hope they are outed, one way or the other, and banned.

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