Call Andy Gray a Dinosaur but He's Not the Only One ; It's Not Just Football -- Sexism and Racism Are Endemic in Work and Society. We're Foolish If We Believe They're Not
Blackhurst, Chris, The Evening Standard (London, England)
THE last time I went to a Fulham match at Craven Cottage, the bloke sitting directly behind me bellowed: "Get up, you slaphead tart!" I wasn't wearing a hat that day and I wheeled round. He looked momentarily embarrassed, then shrugged, as if to say: "No hard feelings, mate, it was him on the pitch, the bald-headed one who's fallen over that I was referring to."
Once, I was in a hospitality lounge at Chelsea when two of the club's former stars came round. One of the questions, to laughter, from the audience, which contained women, was: "Which do you prefer, dogging or roasting?" I only offer these as examples of the milieu from which the now sacked Sky TV football commentator Andy Gray came. Of course, he was a national figure reaching millions -- as was his co-presenter Richard Keys. who resigned yesterday -- who should set an example. But that also applies to Wayne Rooney when he mouths off a stream of expletives when a decision goes against him.
There is something uncomfortable about the Gray dismissal for sexism. Maybe it's the fact that he worked for an organisation that is the subject of a takeover bid from another that owns newspapers that parade pictures of semi-naked women and in the past has devoted pages and pages to stories of footballers' sexual exploits. And that both companies are controlled by the same Rupert Murdoch.
Or that Gray had sued Murdoch's NewsCorp because he believed he was the victim of phone hacking by its News of the World title. And that Gray uttered his comments about a female assistant referee off camera, and other evidence of his inappropriate behaviour was also recorded but not broadcast and mysteriously found its way on to YouTube, only to be later taken down.
All that adds to the intrigue surrounding his firing. He was also formerly a star pundit and previously a top player in a sport where abuse of women, indeed of anybody who might constitute a minority (be they short of hair or brainy, like one player who read The Guardian and was therefore condemned as homosexual, or just exceptionally tall like Peter Crouch, who must endure screams of "freak" whenever he touches the ball), is commonplace.
Don't let anyone kid you either that racism and homophobia are dead and buried in football -- they're alive and well, as David Cohen's report on Page 24 today males clear. The fans may be careful with the former -- if they're heard saying something racist they will be ejected -- but it's there, all the same. That was made graphically evident when "Big Ron" Atkinson lost his job, again as a TV summariser, for saying live on air, believing the microphone was switched off, that the black Chelsea player Marcel Desailly "is what some people would call a f***ing lazy n***er". There are numerous black players but hardly any black managers, coaches, directors or TV experts -- indeed, there are more blondes than blacks on our football shows.
Anybody who is really shocked by Gray should listen to the chants of the crowd that are carefully muted on Match of the Day, the ones that refer to a star's wife or girlfriend or children in the most appalling, shameful terms.
But it's not just football that is the guilty party. …