‘Fair’ Policy on Bleaching - Simpson
February is celebrated as Black History Month. It is a month in which we recognise great black people who have toiled to level the social playing field so that blacks can have equality.
However, some opt to utilise various chemical means to make their black, history. Bleaching is at its highest prevalence in our society today, and its reach has made a pitch invasion, with a number of football players not only highlighting their talents, but their complexion or lack thereof.
In June last year, national team manager Roy Simpson conveyed the Jamaica Football Federation's (JFF) stance on players who bleach their skin, noting that the organisation would not tolerate 'bleachers' in the national squad.
Since then, one of such players in question, the gifted Maalique Foster, has been called up and made his debut recently in Turkey. This might be viewed by many as regression on the stance that was so boldly laid down, however, Simpson sought to bring clarity to the issue.
"We will select you, but when you come in and we explain what we are looking for, and you are afforded the time, we will say this is what we expect and what we believe if you are willing to partner with us. If over a period of time we say this, and we don't see them working with us, then they have made a choice," Simpson said at the time, stating that such players would not be excluded but rather invited and given an ultimatum.
According to Simpson, it was the same approach taken with players before Foster's recent call-up. Players such as Ricardo Morris and Owayne Gordon were called and given the opportunity. They have both since discontinued bleaching.
"Players such as Owayne Gordon and Ricardo Morris, we have seen where they have complied. We have to be balanced and not be draconian about the issue. We have to bring them in, educate and show them what they can achieve."
Foster himself was quoted last year as saying that it was something that he was willing to work on.
"It is just a matter of time. I am going to work on it, man. I will look into the situation and do what I have to do," Foster was quoted saying in an article last June.
Another player who has discontinued bleaching as a result of the JFF's stance is Javain Brown. His mother, Viviene Spencer, said that she was disappointed with his decision to alter his complexion.
"I was very upset. He has siblings, one of whom - a sister - does bleach because she doesn't like being so dark complexion-wise, but he had no reason. I told him that he doesn't need to be bleaching his skin and that he needs to think about himself and his survival. Thankfully, JFF made a stance that prompted him to listen to my advice and decided to stop" she said.
Simpson emphasised that the process is more about understanding the cultural influence and educating the players not only about the importance of their image and responsibility of representing their country, but also about the different consequences one can face because of bleaching.
"Well, we understand the dilemma faced by these youngsters coming out of environments where bleaching is the norm and even is seen as making you more appealing and attractive. So we have to sit them down and educate them, even bring in a doctor to explain the consequences of the practice. There was one player recently who had what was supposed to be a minor graze, turning out to be a laceration, which sidelined him for a few days due to the degradation of his skin."
Simpson further pointed out that the implication one might have as it regards travelling as authorities such as PICA and the US embassy will take issue with such persons' dual identities. He made reference to an article posted in The Gleaner titled 'Bleachers' Beware - Complexion Change Could Cause Travel Woes'.
Simpson concluded that the stance is not one that is hard and fast, but one that gives the players the opportunity to make a decision for themselves, be educated about bleaching, and see the possibilities they can be afforded by being in the national team.