Racism is every fan's problem. Let's do something about it.
Updated: Jul 15
The outpouring of support for David McGoldrick in the light of the racist abuse he has suffered has been heartening to see. Across the board, United fans have condemned the disgraceful words written - as always - by an anonymous social media user.
Twitter was in uproar. Message boards were up in arms. The club issued a statement the next morning, saying in no uncertain terms that “This cannot continue. Something needs to change.” The tweet gained 40,000 likes in a few hours.
It’s an important message. However, it’s time to explore what it is we can change. Fans are understandably appalled when one of our players is subjected to racist abuse. It’s a no-brainer: a player we admire has been attacked, and we feel aggrieved on a personal level. We see the messages, and realise they’re obviously from a fan of another team. A bitter, despicable figure, denying a person’s right to exist just because their team lost. That’s not like us, we wouldn’t do that.
However, how many of us have seen racism in action at matches and felt powerless? How many have seen a fellow supporter post a racist trope on social media and scrolled on? This everyday racism is all around us. Some is blatant, but most is more subtle: an unconscious racial bias, from people we might know from the Kop, or the pub before the match, or a conversation online.
Fans who have been season ticket holders for years. Home and away loyalists. People who have stood to clap David McGoldrick, and Lys Mousset, and Brian Deane, and Tony Agana, but spread racist views as soon as the crowd begins to shuffle out of the ground - and sometimes while still inside.
The contradiction is plain to see. We need to acknowledge it, understand it, and discuss how to extinguish it. We can’t do this without realising we’re all complicit in our inaction, and begin to change how we approach the issue of racism in our club.
Sheffield United is by no means a special case. Every club has a racist element: it seems to have come with the territory for years. Why don’t we change that?
Saying racism is a problem at other clubs without first looking at the problems within our own fanbase does a disservice to the majority of fans. Sheffield United deserves a fanbase that recognises its flaws and works to improve them, for the good of the club and society around it.
We want to make this a space for sincere and practical discussion. We invite all Sheffield United fans to get involved. We want to hear testimony from BAME Blades. We want to explore how the fanbase as a whole can make the club a welcoming and supportive place to enjoy football. We encourage everyone to send us their thoughts on how we go about this.
Symbolic action is encouraging, but until we start to take practical steps, that racist element will persist, barely under the surface, as a stain on our club. Let’s sort out our own house, and we can begin to make a real difference in the game on a wider platform.
After all, we are Sheffield United. Let’s live up to the name.
David and Sam