Twice in the past few days two interviewees from the football world on Radio 5 have used the word coloured in connection with black players when discussing the possible introduction of the Rooney Rule into English football. The so-called rule comes from America and in the English context makes compulsory the interviewing of at least one black candidate where a managerial or head coach position in a professional football team is to be filled.
The first occasion was by the Wigan FC owner Dave Wheelan (3 Oct), who repeatedly referred to “coloured players” . Nothing was said during the interview, but immediately it was over the presenter in best politically correct fashion said in the peculiarly noxious tones of a white liberal affecting outrage that they were apologising for language in the interview “which listeners may have found offensive”. Interestingly, the BBC written item which referred to Whelan’s appearance discussing the Rooney Rule subject did not mention that he had used the phrase “black footballers”.
On the Stephen Nolan programme (4 Oct) the very experienced English football manager Dave Bassett and the black basketball player John Amaechi engaged in an extended row over the same phrase coloured footballers, plus variations on it (go into to the recording at 35 minutes) . Amaechi jumped in after the first two uses of “coloured players” with ”This is 2014 and I’m listening to someone talk about using coloured players. For the love of God are you kidding me?”.
Judged by his frequent British media appearances Amaechi is a naturally petulant and childishly abusive personality. He proceeded to try to patronise Bassett, a working-class man without much education, by referring to his (Amaechi’s) academic qualification in psychology and saying with heavy sarcasm that he might just have the edge over Bassett when it came to judging human behaviour. This merely made Amaechi look like an unpleasant boor at best and a deeply insecure man at worst. Amaechi added to this bad impression by constantly insulting Bassett by objecting to any attempt by Bassett to get a word in edgeways by shrieking something along the lines of don’t interrupt me, it’s rude.
The presenter Nolan made precious little attempt to restrain Amaechi’s rudeness or give Bassett a fair chance to speak. In addition, he backed up up Amaechi by several times saying to Bassett that the word coloured in this context was “inappropriate” . So much for BBC staff not expressing opinions.
Greatly to his credit Bassett stuck to his guns and refused to apologise , during his time on air or, according to Nolan, afterwards – Nolan said that Bassett had stood by his use of the phrase after he left the airwaves. Whilst on air he made the very good point that managers and coaches in English professional football frequently did not represent the percentage of the players involved from various groups such as the Northern Irish or Welsh. He also opposed the introduction of the Rooney Rule.
The attempt to stop the use of coloured is a prime example of how racial, ethnic and other minorities such as gays try to exert power generally over society . This is both sinister – control of language is the tool of dictators – and unreasonable, because while a group may call themselves whatever they choose , they have no moral right to impose their chosen term upon those outside of the group. The moral abuse caused by imposition becomes especially sharp where there is a different word used by the population in which they live which is not abusive. That is the case with coloured. The term was for more than a century the polite term for blacks. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People was founded in 1909 in the USA and continues with the title today. There is little serious complaint about the use of coloured in the title of that organisation, while the mixed race (white/black mixture) population of South Africa is still called coloured. Ironically, the term black occupied the same position as coloured does now fifty years ago.
On the Rooney Rule question, it would be just another granting of privilege to a racial minority. Nor is it clear who would count as black in these circumstances. How black would you have to be? One half black, quarter black , one eighth black? What of someone with one parent who has black ancestry who looks white? (genetics can produce some unexpected results). Would every racial and ethnic minority be allowed climb on the bandwagon?
On a purely practical level where would the large number of black and Asian qualified managers and senior coaches required to meet the interviewee quota come from? Would it be a very small group who went from interview to interview? After all, if there are only two black managers in the top 92 English league clubs , who exactly could be meaningfully called for interview? By definition these would all be inexperienced so how on earth could many if any be considered for clubs in the tope toe English divisions, the Premier League and the Championship? Even at the level of formal coaching qualifications there would be a problem because few black or Asian footballers are taking their advanced coaching badges.
The group which is scandalously under represented in football both as players and managers is of course the English, who have been relentlessly squeezed out since the formation of the Premier League in 1992 and foreign owners, managers and players flooded in as English League football became ever more lucrative and prestigious. The result is that the English have become second-class citizens in their own professional football. That is the inequality which needs addressing.
NB If you want to catch the Nolan programme recording , do so quickly because it will only be available on IPlayer at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04jj29l fro another 4 days.