Give Antisemitism the Boot

21 Nov 2014 by CST

Reported remarks about Jews and money by Wigan football club's respected owner, Dave Whelan, reflect the persistence of dinosaur attitudes in football on issues of racism and sexism. They show how far the people's game still has to go in order to catch up with its global audience. Whelan's remarks are perhaps best explained by his age and background, but the Football Association must now deal with this case, just as they would any other. This is why CST has stated:

Dave Whelan’s comments invoked antisemitic stereotypes about Jews and money and his apology suggests that he still doesn’t understand why his comments were offensive. It is an indication of how widespread such outdated attitudes still are within football, and how much work needs to be done to eradicate this way of thinking.

Whelan claims not to understand why his reported comment that "Jewish people chase money more than anybody else" has caused offence. Being a multimillionaire himself, he may even consider it to be a compliment. His quick apology (view it here) appears sincere, but reinforces his claim not to understand the offence: because even here, his reference to Jews as "a great race of people" will still leave many people feeling that he simply doesn't get how to talk about these issues in the modern day:

If there are Jewish people offended by what I have said then I would apologise immediately and say I am sorry and did not mean offence to them. All my Jewish friends realise that I would never insult a Jewish person, I have no reason to - they are a great race of people. I do a lot of business with them, they are very honest people, hard-working people and I would never insult a Jewish person.

The controversy around Whelan's remarks is understandable. Football is big business and a core subject of modern day 24 hour news, and this is another sad example of the game's continuing struggle to think and talk in the modern manner that is rightly demanded of it. It is easy to take a kick at Dave Whelan and football for what are commonly referred to as "unreconstructed" attitudes, but this is really not the most serious example of antisemitism in recent public discourse. The association of Jews with money is a very old antisemitic trope, which is exactly why Whelan's blunt old-fashioned remarks caused the controversy: but the same thing, delivered in a much more sophisticated manner, underpins far more insidious and dangerous discourse that alleges Jewish and / or pro-Israeli lobbies control politicians, the media, global capitalism and much else, besides. It is those deeper comments, made in Parliament and elsewhere, that also need called out at every turn, and booted into touch.    


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