Now, for this part, I want to turn our focus over to the world of sport. Let’s examine the way many black footballers are treated in the media.
Sky Sports employ many pundits from the ‘old-school’ of football. They were great players back in the day, but their views are often archaic, appealing to people of their generation, rather than the youth of today. People like Graham Souness, who repeatedly attacks Paul Pogba, the Manchester United maestro. The way he treats Pogba has been a ridiculed on social media, trivialising his behaviour. But the more you think about it, the more ominous it is.
He basically blames Pogba for everything wrong at United, saying he’s lazy and arrogant, amongst other demeaning comments. Pogba carried United last season and yes, he can be a bit lazy, but the amount of times he’s singled him out for attack is unsettling. Pogba is known for his vibrant hairstyles and loud sense of fashion (he actually made our Premier League Handsome XI which you can read here), but his confidence and lifestyle is something that many in the media cannot accept. Some may say “oh cmon he’s not racist he attacks loads of people”. That may be true, but he openly attacks Pogba far, far more.
It’s part of the wider trend of vilifying young, black footballers. Think of Raheem Sterling who was abused in the papers for years, constantly being attacked for spending money, as if it’s a crime.
One prominent example of this trend in action is provided through a comparison of Daily Mail headlines for two young Manchester City players: Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo.
For the piece on Foden, the headline read: “Manchester City startlet Phil Foden buys new £2 million home for his mum”. In contrast, for Adarabioyo, it went: “Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week, splashes out on mansion on market for £2.25 million despite having never started a Premier League match”.
Slight difference, right?
Another recent example of racist undertones in the UK sporting media was towards Dele Alli. He was recently robbed at knifepoint and had several watches stolen. Yet, several reports from widely read newspapers focused more on the value of the items stolen from his house, rather than the ordeal he suffered
Headlines stated that the three watches reportedly stolen from Alli’s home were worth over £350,000, and went into some detail about his personal wealth and lifestyle. Why is it important how expensive the watches are? Ask that question. The answer is it does not matter at all. Yes, this is is a part of the wider attacks on celebrity culture in general from the media, but black footballers are disproportionately targeted. Would a white player of similar ilk to Alli, someone like James Maddison, be reported on like this if the same incident happened? I’ll let you make your own judgement on that.
Finally, a very subtle point for you to think about, which even I had been somewhat oblivious too. Why is it that black footballers, not all but on the whole, are described as strong, powerful or fast as their main traits? Think about how many times you will have heard that rhetoric in the media. Referring to black players in ways that describe them as ‘beasts’, referring to their size and physicality instead of their natural ability. It’s incredibly dehumanising. It also surreptitiously suggests an image of the physically powerful, athletic, but unintelligent black athlete.
Again, Paul Pogba is a great example here. Yes, he is a very strong man, but rarely are his passing range, technical ability and intelligence put forward as his finest attributes. Instead the media always talk about his size and physicality, adding: “oh yeah he can pass well”. He’s actually a similar size to a lot of white, Premier League midfielders as well!
The same goes for Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, one of the best centre-backs in the world. His passing range from the back is second to none; however, he’s usually described through a variation of ‘strong and powerful’. Not “wow, his defensive awareness and intelligence is astounding”. It’s the stereotyping of black footballers. It’s as if certain traits are reserved for white players and other qualities for black players. This trickles down into all levels of football, trying to sign ‘fast, powerful black players’ rather than looking at their technical ability. I just found it really interesting to ponder this point. Perhaps you disagree with me, but try to understand that perspective and think if you have made that comment or stereotype before.
As I mentioned in the first episode of our podcast series, white people are often treated as individuals, rather than characteristic of a stereotyped racial identity, which minorities always are.
This is part 2 of the examination of racism in the UK media. I wanted it to be an in-depth look into how embedded racism is. It goes much further than the Sun headlines we all see, as I have tried to demonstrate. I really hope these pieces have made you think a lot about the issues with the media in our country and the role it can play in normalising racism.
Episode 4 will be out tomorrow, so make sure to catch that on all major podcast streaming services!