When Lord Sugar put his foot in his mouth and compared Sengal’s heroic football team to a bunch of beach sellers from Marbella I am certain he did not immediately think he was being racist.
— Miriti Murungi (@NutmegRadio) June 19, 2018
In his defence, he eventually did the right thing when he realised his tweet was disturbingly offensive by deleting his comment and apologising unreservedly. For that I give the former Spurs chairman credit.
But was this an honest error of judgement or an example of institutional racism? And did Sugar’s poor taste expose our own hypocrisy when we criticise the Russians over their poor record on racial abuse.
Lord Sugar enjoys the role of boardroom bully on his TV Show the Apprentice and he revels in the media platform that gives his outspoken views maximum public attention via social media. So excuse me for not giving him the benefit of the doubt, because his profile comes with a level of responsibility that must not be ignored when it is convenient to do so.
What I would like to address is the fact that racism in Britain is still rife, especially among people over a certain age. What Sugar said was typical of the racist humour that a large percentage of over 50s in particular would fail to recognise as being out of order.
The hypocrisy is that as a nation we are quick to condemn others for being racist when we have not eradicated such thinking back home. The British media have been keen to fuel the popular belief that our Russian hosts for FIFA World Cup 2018 are as racist as they come. But is that a case of the pot calling the kettle black? And in no way is that meant as a racist comment.
With that in mind, it was interesting to hear a reporter of mixed race speaking on TalkSport earlier today debunk the theory of Russian racism, describing this media view as “propaganda”.
Whether that is true or not, I can say with absolute certainty that racism is alive and kicking in Britain today. It is all around us and closer to home than many of us probably realise.
Imagine my horror a couple of days before the World Cup kicked off when a local gardener told me he would “not be supporting England because there are too many black players in the team.” What the f***? Are you serious?
The frightening truth is that this self-employed family man was being 100 percent serious, and when I tackled him on his views he simply dug himself deeper into his racist hole. He followed up by insisting this is exactly why he voted for Brexit, and why Britain has been on a downward spiral ever since Enoch Powell made his infamous Rivers of Blood speech in 1968.
Do not be fooled into thinking this view is an isolated one because there are many more examples I could quote. One guy I have known most of my life, a chartered accountant, calls all black footballers by the ‘N’ word. Some are less vocal and some live in the shadows of institutional racism. But the list is endless. And this is just among people I know or have come into contact with myself.
If anyone wants a great example of a hypocrite, someone that accuses / smears labour, with anti Semitism, whilst also doing his own Bernard Manning style, let’s abuse black people banter and gags on twitter, check out @Lord_Sugar #racism https://t.co/nscsizeVje
— anwar akhtar (@aakhtar) June 20, 2018
So when we consider the ramifications of the ‘racist’ tweet posted by Lord Sugar, it is impossible to ignore the call for punitive action to be taken. Here is a man with such an influential position, not just within government circles, Lord Sugar has a prime time television series showcased by our state broadcaster the BBC.
So far in Russia, we have been spared any racist incidents at any of the matches played. But the subject of racism has been a hot topic among sporting and political commentators alike, ever since FIFA announced the 2018 tournament would be staged in Russia – and not least in the final countdown.
On the eve of the World Cup, England manager Gareth Southgate revealed that he will not order his England players to walk off the pitch if they experience racist abuse in Russia.
Danny Rose, the England full-back, described himself as “numb” to racism and claimed he has “no faith” in football authorities to tackle the issue.
Rose went as far as telling his family not to travel to Russia to watch him play because he feared for their safety. Subjected to racism while playing for England’s Under-21s in Serbia in 2012, the Spurs defender is mindful of the recent abuse aimed at Paul Pogba and France’s players during an international friendly in St Petersburg which led to nothing more than a paltry fine.
Happily, six days into the tournament, fears of racism and the safety of travelling fans in Russia have proved unfounded. How ironic that the most damaging racist abuse has been delivered by a billionaire British businessman who took some persuasion before he finally issued a grovelling apology.
In the now-deleted tweet, Lord Sugar wrote: “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi tasking resourceful chaps.”
In a subsequent tweet, he said he thought his post was ‘funny adding: “I cant see what I have to apologise for…. you are OTT… its a bloody joke.”
And that my friends is exactly what I mean by institutional racism. Lord Sugar thought his tweet was funny. If one of the contestants on his TV Show the Apprentice had offered that lame defence, Sugar would have no alternative but to tell the culprit “You’re Fired!”
Ron Atkinson lost his job on ITV when he once made a racist blunder during commentary. Richard Keys and Andy Gray were both axed by Sky after making sexist comments. So how can Lord Sugar go un-punished by the BBC? Failure to act by the Beeb would surely be the worst form of discrimination.
You see that Lord Sugar tweet? That's the type of thinking that propels the hounding of Pogba. And talk about Lukaku's intelligence. And the perpetual denigration of Sterling. Stay in denial if you wish so that you can be politically correct. Ambivalence doesn't change reality.
— Babanla (@biolakazeem) June 20, 2018
Imagine a black peer saying something anti Semitic about the Israeli football team at a World Cup.
He'd have already been sacked, possibly arrested, and would be front page of every paper tomorrow.
Let's see how this is reported in reality. pic.twitter.com/H5lwmcUSKc
— Стэн Коллимор (@StanCollymore) June 20, 2018