From the moment the first footballer took the knee for Black Lives Matter it has been woefully, horribly, apparent that the sport itself was filled with people who just didn’t get it at all.
From those in the stands to those running the clubs, the trend from the first has been towards “right, we’ve done our bit, how long does this have to go on?”
Football never took this seriously because football, from day one, has failed to grasp the point.
This isn’t entirely football’s fault but it’s been clear for a while that this was the very last sport in which the gesture was going to find long term support. Part of it is football’s issue with racism, a cancer that is rife in the sport across Europe.
And part of it is just football itself outside of the US.
What started as a campaign to highlight the relentless killing of African Americans at the hands of the police morphed into one highlighting the scandalous inequalities in much of the Western world and the way they contribute to early deaths amongst the black population.
Yet it remained, at heart, a US initiative … and football across the world never properly understood it. Between that and the dark forces which still lie at the heart of too much of our game, the sport was never more than half-hearted about this, and never likely to commit to it for any considerable length of time.
I read Celtic’s statement today in frustration and even despair.
Scottish football has closed ranks around one of its own, and whilst the sentiment is laudable and the sight of Scott Brown embracing Kamara before the match was one of the best things about the afternoon, the statements from the clubs, starting with those shockers from Motherwell and Dundee Utd yesterday, have shown football in a different light than those involved believe.
Black Lives Matter is not a slogan.
It’s a statement.
It was never supposed to be anything else; it’s a cry for help, a cry of despair, a last ditch effort to focus the attention of the world on the horrible iniquities at the heart of life in the west, but particularly in America.
From the very first, there are those in football who have misappropriated and misrepresented it.
From fans who have condemned their clubs for embracing “left wing politics” – said fans having no trouble with the wearing of the poppy – to the kind of ignorance we got in the Motherwell statement yesterday … this has all been there right from the start.
I’ve lost count of the arguments I’ve had with Celtic fans, our own supporters, and I’ve blocked dozens who have used variations on this “all lives matter” garbage, which is a meaningless slogan and one that originated on the forums and webpages of the far right.
I am embarrassed for all of Scottish football today, embarrassed that the sport in the main could get this so shockingly wrong.
Black Lives Matter yes, perhaps, but black footballers matter more; that’s the message we’re sending out to the world.
This wasn’t about football, but somehow it’s become about racism in the game. This was never about the sport, but the sport appropriated it and then tossed it away because it didn’t fix the problem.
But it was never supposed to fix football’s problem … it had nothing to do with football’s problem.
Racism in football is its own affair, and one of the tragedies of the sport’s history with the Black Lives Matter campaign has been the way it has actually emboldened racists at clubs all across Britain and Europe.
Too many clubs have pandered to them on the basis that this is a “meaningless gesture.”
Which I suppose it is if you never understood it in the first place.
All football was being asked to do was show solidarity and send a clear message.
That was it.
This was never, on its own, going to fix anything and it was certainly not going to bring the sport towards any sort of reckoning with its own demons. But then, neither is anything else … because football doesn’t know how to fix this.
Yet today, our club, which once understood the bigger picture, which could once see that there was more going on in the world than there is inside our wee bubble, has made it clear that we just didn’t get the point at all.
Which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me from players and coaches who still haven’t grasped putting a player on each of the posts at a corner, or from a conservative leaning board for whom the bottom line is the only thing that matters.
We, after all, are the club who spent £500,000 on a Jolly Boys jaunt to Dubai in the middle of a pandemic, when the whole country was in lockdown. Expecting exceptional moral leadership and big picture thinking from those in charge here was always a stretch … but on this one I genuinely thought we understood, I genuinely thought we got it.
I’m too depressed to be outraged today.
I am too fed up with the tired band of old white men who run Celtic at this moment in time to be anything else.
The irony is that we think we’ve done a good thing today, and in a lot of ways we have.
We’ve stood alongside a rival player who, if the allegations are true – and I do believe they are – will feel strengthened and encouraged by that support and solidarity. It will obviously give comfort to other black players who have suffered the same, and this is a scourge we all want to see eradicated from the sport.
But wow, how we’ve let ourselves down in the grand scheme of things, and not just Celtic but all of football, a sport which has never quite grasped this and so never quite supported it.
When every club in the land has stopped pretending that it gets it, when every pampered player has stopped pretending that they care, we’ll move on as if it never happened.
And the next time America gives us a Trayvon Martin or a Rayshard Brooks or a Breonna Taylor or a George Floyd, or when we hear that black Britons face a greater likelihood of death from the bug or from dozens of other health conditions and outcomes to which they are exposed to greater risks, not to worry.
Because today Scottish football stood for one of its own.
And before that it took a knee. For a while anyway.
Until knees got sore and noses got put out of joint and footballers wondered why they bothered and people got fed up with it and fans wondered when their clubs got so woke all of a sudden.
It was a moment, but the moment has passed … and although it didn’t fix a damn thing, either in football or the wider world where racism rampages on, today Scottish clubs swapped kneeling for standing, calling one a “meaningless gesture” whilst pretending that the other bestowed magical powers on us all and somehow took a step forward.
Yet football’s demons are stronger today than they were yesterday.
How do you think the gutter rats of the far-right feel seeing something they so despised consigned to the dustbin, and routed from our clubs, and all in defence of a black footballer?
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God help us all, but there are people who think there is logic in what we’ve done here.
I can’t even pretend to believe that or to feel anything other than profound dismay and regret for the decision Celtic has taken, in thinking we’re doing our best.
This is what we mean when we say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.