Jim Lyon - Stop blurring the edges and work out what is actually racist

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

I apologise. I didn’t mean to be sexist. Chickens are birds. Birds is an offensive term for women. As I write this there are women in the room. I apologise.

Oh dear, hasn’t football got itself in a muddle again?

Who would have thought a not-all-that amusing and inoffensive joke could have caused such a furore?

Once again those involved with the game have spun themselves around so many times they have no idea where they are, where they started or where they should go.

Amazingly it seems the Football Association, for once, are the only ones who have approached the problem with any logic - and immediately dismissed it.

Of course we should not bury our heads. There is still a massive problem with racism in both football and general society.

But many people are so tangled up in their desperation to avoid saying anything that might be misconstrued they do not know what is racist and what is not.

Roy Hodgson telling a joke about a monkey while there are black people present does not mean he is racist. It means he told a joke about a monkey. That is all.

The people who are making it racist are those who are adding the connotation for him.

Using the word monkey in a joke about a monkey is no more racist than referring to a bent nail is homophobic or mentioning any kind of bird is sexist.

Some people have said his comment was ill-advised. No it wasn’t - it was a joke about a monkey.

My question would be why he thought telling a rather old joke was the best way to express his point to players at half-time in a vital World Cup qualifier?

But hey, it worked.

One person from Football Against Racism said: “This was a silly phrase to use in a diverse workforce.

“I think some players will see it as a reflection of the type of language still used by some coaches and some attitudes that still prevail.”

No, it was a joke about a monkey.

You cannot stop using perfectly harmless words in context for fear of others twisting it or we will all be asking for directions to the Simiiformes (Anthropoidea) enclosure when we go to the zoo.

What is a ‘silly phrase to use’ and a ‘a reflection of the type of language still used’ is when someone is called a ‘******* black ****’.

And when that is only punished by a four-game ban and the loss of a few hours wages then that is worthy of extreme indignation.

Racism is a detestable trait. It is abhorrent and the world would be a much better place without it. No right-minded individual can disagree with that.

Thousands of years of history tell us it will never go away from life entirely but it can be eradicated from football.

Only that will not happen while people hunting for wood can see only trees.

To solve a problem you have to outline exactly what the problem is. Blurring the edges makes it almost impossible.