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Oral Tracey | Boos and monkey chants, who cares?

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Manchester City’s Jamaica-born forward Raheem Sterling (left) was the victim of racial abuse by a Chelsea fan during their English Premier League game at Stamford Bridge in London, England, on Saturday, December 8, 2018. The fan has since been found and punished for his actions.

I have believed, argued and debated, for the better part of a decade now, that monkey chants from the stands at professional football games is all fair game.

Of course, I have been badgered with the historical context of monkey chants and what it all connotes for black people in the world today. But even with that nauseating and revolving lesson, my ultra simplistic mind keeps irking. Why is chanting like a monkey any worse than hissing like a snake, or mooing like a cow, or barking like a dog, since in actuality, as black people, we are none of these creatures.


Why then do we allow what other people think of us or express about us, especially from the distance of the stands in a football stadium to be such a big deal? Abuse is abuse is abuse, and it is downright hypocritical to single out a particular abuse and deem it illegal or intolerable, while implicitly deem the other abuses acceptable. Personally, I think soundings from fans in the stands which are invariably aimed at getting an advantage for one team at the expense of another, should be free and fair game, as long as it is confined to the stands.

A professional footballer being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds per week ought not to allow verbal outbursts from the distance of the stands to negatively affect their play. There are millions of young black boys all over the world – from Africa, and indeed right here in the Caribbean – who can only dream, and would willingly give an arm and a leg, to play big-time professional football, given that a few bigots might shout insults at them from the distance of the stands.

The principle of my disgust is that I am divorcing the despicable acts of actual racism that do exist from the advent of fans chanting words from the stands. I will only be personally convinced that fans shouting crap from the stands is as big an issue as some politicians and activists are making it out to be, when players begin to walk away from their multimillion-dollar contracts, because a few drunken fans spew some silly gibberish from the stands. I guarantee that will not happen any time soon.


We all know and accept that racism is wrong, and ideally should be eradicated from the face of the earth, but human beings are not perfect. It is questionable if we are even good beings overall. We are certainly not perfect, thus we have conflicts and fights and divorces and wars, as well as fans shouting insults from the stands at football games. If chants from the stands were the biggest problem facing mankind, what a wonderful world this would be!

My opinion on this issue might be unpopular, but my perspective is also unique. As a youngster growing up, I literally dreamt of playing professional football, with all the dislocations and inconveniences that would have come along with it: the cold and snowy weather, the culture shock, the language barrier, and yes, all the chants from the stands. I thought then, as I’m still thinking today, what’s the big deal?