The report uses the phrases “lighter skinned” and “darker skinned” in comparing players, and adjusting the numbers to account for the fact that there are more lighter skinned than darker skinned players on PL pitches the research found “the lighter skinned players were more widely praised for intelligence (62.60%), hard work (60.40%) and quality (62.79%). Commentators are also 6.59 times more likely to talk about the power of a player if he has darker skin and 3.38 times more likely to reference his pace.
Even more frightening, “The study also found that 63.33% of criticism from commentators in regards to the intelligence of a player is aimed at those with darker skin, while the figure for quality is 67.57%.”
Multiple questions arise from this. First, will the mass media admit that in this case they are the problem? Second will they work hard to do anything about it?
When Andy Grey and Richard Keys were finally sacked by Sky after years of appalling misogynistic comments they trotted off and got work BeIN Sports – the company that is working with the media to try and stop Saudi Arabia buying Newcastle.
So those two were eventually dismissed after years of sexism – but this problem of racism is institutional throughout the British media. I can’t imagine journalists and commentators will all be sent for retraining let alone dismissed. There might be a memo sent round, I guess, but probably that is about it.
Reporters from seven different TV channels that broadcast in English were used and only comments by in-match commentators and co‑commentators were used (not the pundits in the studio who pontificate after the match). And as the PFA’s equalities executive, Jason Lee (the former Watford forward) said, “Commentators help shape the perception we hold.”
Now I do not in any way want to suggest that my own campaign about how biased commentators are against Arsenal is of remotely as much importance as this institutionalised racism in the media – which is indeed why I’ve given the link to the full article above.
But this issue of racism in commentaries does illuminate the issue of bias in commentators. My argument through numerous articles and examples is that commentators have pre-conceptions and neither events, nor their editors, will do anything to pick up on these.
Indeed given that nothing has been done about the inherent racism of commentators it is easy to understand how a persistent anti-Arsenal vision can also become part of the commentators’ vision.
In the same way that the media can have a racist bias in what it laughable sometimes calls its “expert analysis” and its commentating, so it can also have a persistent anti-Arsenal bias in all matters. Of course the anti-Arsenal bias is not important when compared to the racism that commentators are revealed to have within them, but one explanation for both the racism and anti-Arsenal bias is that it is simply habit. And as any psychologist will tell you, habits are incredibly easy to pick up but fiendishly difficult to get rid of.
The negative habits of the media are of course easy to spot. Here are a couple of classics…
On 10 August 2003: The Independent on Sunday newspaper predicted Arsenal would finish 5th, despite the club finishing in the top two for the previous five years. On 31 August 2003 The Times reported that the league match against Man City as contained “the worst 45 minutes [by Arsenal] that any of their fans could remember”. Goodness knows who they were talking to, or how long a memory these people had; but as you may recall Arsenal won the league unbeaten that season (and won that game 2-1). The worst their fans could remember??? How about Arsenal 0 Wimbledon 1 (23 Feb 1997)?
But of course the racism is the important thing here, but the fact is that alongside it, commentators and reporters have an inbuilt negativity towards Arsenal, which may well simply be habit and a view among editors that knocking Arsenal is what they do. Maybe they think it is what fans like.
The question is, does it matter? The racism of course clearly does and is utterly disgraceful and appalling. But does the constant bickering negativity that surrounds Arsenal also matter? I believe it does because just as racism spreads from football commentators into the wider public, so the Arsenal negativity it spreads via the media and AFTV into the minds of fans who are encouraged to wave placards and criticise players. Just as a black player might well decide not to play for certain teams or in certain leagues because of the racism found there, so all footballers are less inclined to come to Arsenal because of the constant negativity in the media towards the club.
The treatment of Mustafi and Xhaka by members of the media and the Arsenal crowd is very likely to have put players off coming to this club from abroad. And this is the opposite of what we had in the past when players came to Arsenal because Mr Wenger was there. Now we have the opposite.
The racism revealed in commentaries is, of course, the prime factor here. But in reminding the media of that we ought to remember its other failings. It’s constant negativity towards Arsenal, and its abject failure ever to consider that referees and their organisation have multiple failings, and just a couple of examples.
To appropriate the old phrase, “Eternal vigilance is the price we pay” (when supporting Arsenal).
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