I have written on a number of occasions about political issues especially when they interplay with the game of football. Most obviously, I have written many times about homophobia in football. With this in mind, I note with interest that players of the calibre and stature of Lineker, King and Lampard are not so readily appearing in such videos to stamp out homophobia in the game*.
I should note that this piece does not use use euphemism or niceties. I think it is important to use the words that people use and, if that offends people, I apologise but unless we engage with these words head on we really don't have the simplest chance in winning the battle against racism.
Racists do not say ''the n word'', ''the y word'' or ''the p word'' or any of the other sanitised things we use as metaphorical earmuffs for our sensibilities. They say horrible words, filthy words. They say 'Yid'. They say 'Paki'. They say 'Nigger'. It might be horrible but let's not dress it up.
Let's call their bluff, point out what they actually say and hope that if they don't change their ways they will at least crawl back under their rock with a look of shame on their face and the sound of our laughter ringing in their ears.
The Last Bastion of Racism in The English Game?
My take on racism is different, I suppose, than that of most people. I do not believe, for example, if someone abuses me for being English whilst living in Scotland that they are being ''racist'' because I do not believe the English are a race (I don't actually really believe that the human species can be subdivided into races but that's for another debate...). The person doing the abusing may well be a racist, he (and it usually is a he) is undoubtedly a prize twat but I'm not sure he is racially abusing me.
I point this out merely because lots of people seem to be believe the opposite. I should also state that I don't see any clear moral difference between racism and any other of the myriad kinds of venomous abuse that is motivated by background.
The general understanding of what racism is can be fairly elastic. Rangers fans singing 'The Famine Song' are viewed, by many, to be racist (again, I think they are moronic and deeply offensive but I'm not sure - in this instance - they are racist). The Crown Prosecution Service did not think that Spurs fans singing ''your dad washes elephants, your mum's a whore' at Emmanuel Adebayor was racist even if many in this country may have disagree with that analysis. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service prosecuted a gentleman in Scotland for calling Craig Bellamy a ''Welsh Bastard''.
Again, I point these examples out to show that sometimes 'what racism is?' in footballing terms is not necessarily clear-cut.
That said, over recent days, a debate has raged as to whether English football can rid itself of antisemitism which, to many people, is the last bastion of large-scale racist tendencies in the upper echelons of the footballing world. Happily, the days of large-scale crowds booing, jeering and abusing black players is all but gone even if individual and small-scale incidents continue. Antisemitism seems to be alive and well.
Within this there is a deeper issue: can football simultaneously say that one set of fans chanting ''Yid Army'' is acceptable but that another set of fans chanting ''Yiddo'' is racial abuse and therefore unacceptable?
We have been here before. Chris Rock does a good line about white people complaining about not being able to use the word 'nigger'. Equally, a Gay bar in Manchester calling itself Queer is quite different to a homophobe screaming ''queer'' at a group of homosexuals.
It is well-known that minority or oppressed groups will often reclaim abusive and derogatory words and make them their own. There are any number of linguistic and sociological reasons for this occurring. And this leads us to a rather thorny series of questions: Do words hurt? Is it the word that matters or the intention of its user? Does the use of a particular word by an oppressed group validate its use by all? Or is this all a big jape that undermines the current power and meaning of a word?
My general view is that freedom of speech means nothing at all if we can then censor anyone who says things we disagree with. That ship seems to have sailed...
But Spurs fans get to say it...
What we do know is that Spurs fans do chant the word. I know a good number of Spurs fans - some Jewish, most not - and most have at some point drunkenly chanted ''Yid Army''. Further examples include one of the better Spurs blogs is run ''You'll win nothing with Yids'' and is run by ''Yids''. My understanding is that in a footballing sense the original ''Yid Army'' was a Spurs hooligan gang. It must be remembered that noisy fans are a useful masking effect (as those who undertake a minute's applause rather than a minute's silence well know). There are likely to be many Spurs fans - both Jew and Gentile - who find their own fans use of the word distasteful yet their silence will not be enough to change attitudes.
I do not know enough about Spurs fans to know whether they chant these terms as a way of defusing the power of opposition abuse; or through irony; or through leaden sarcasm; to turn it into a unifying cry or for any other reason. Nor do I know when they started, as a wider group, such chanting.
If we accept that Spurs fans (and not only Jewish Spurs fans) can chant ''Yid'' which, I admit, is a big ''if'' we are surely accepting that it is not the word that is the problem but rather how the word is used and the motivation and intention behind its use. We are moving to a situation where the use of the word is validated in some instances and not in others.
There is nothing, per se, wrong with such an approach but it is clearly a problematic one within the game of football. How can the police or stewards reasonably enforce such a system? When is a fan being ironic? When is a fan using a word to undermine would be oppressors? When is a fan using the word offensively?
What happens if a Spurs fan is singing ''Yiddo'' in the street? Should he be arrested? What happens if a Chelsea fan is singing ''Yiddo'' in the street? Should he be arrested?
But what if the Chelsea fan is Jewish?
*You will also notice, from that video, that no Jews appear. It is not as though football is short of potential Jewish voices to help that campaign. The English game is a better place for having Jewish footballers, Jewish managers, Jewish owners and Jewish fans.