The ‘Kick It Out’ Campaign And The Trouble With T-Shirts

Chris Wright

22nd, October 2012


By Chris Wright

Over the course of the weekend’s Premier League games, more than 30 players from eight different clubs refused to carry the logo of the Kick It Out campaign across their chests during their respective warm-ups in protest at a perceived lack of action on the anti-racism charity’s behalf following another stormy footballing fortnight with racial taunting at the fore once again.

Having gone on record questioning the wisdom of Reading’s Jason Roberts’ plans to boycott the t-shirt parade before the weekend’s fixtures, Sir Alex Ferguson was up in arms when a sheep from his own flock, Rio Ferdinand, did likewise – undermining the overlord’s will, breaking rank and challenging the imposed gestalt at Old Trafford.

It looks, if tabloid reports are to be believed, that Rio’s show of defiance may cost him heavily with one paper (The Sun, if you must know) prophesising that Ferdinand will be stung for £220,000 – two weeks’ wages and, coincidentally, exactly the same amount John Terry was fined for ‘racially insulting’ his younger brother.

While the magnitude of Ferdinand’s punishment is yet to be decided, it’s more than likely that the size of the fine will be determined by the fact that he publicly disobeyed the Almighty Fergie, rather than him refusing to back one of the Premier League’s ordained charities of choice.

“I always knew you’d betray me Rio”

Ironically, the decision of many players to wear their ‘Kick It Out’ garb has bought more exposure, for better or worse, to the cause than it would had the weekend passed without note. What would have been players milling around in yellow t-shirts suddenly became a sticking point – worthy of a second look.

From experience, most fans couldn’t care less what the players are wearing during the pre-match amble. It could be a ‘Kick It Out’ t-shirt, it could be a ‘REO Speedwagon World Tour ’80’ t-shirt. They all look the same from 100 yards away. In stark terms, the slogans printed and displayed on players’ shirts were and are never really going to make any difference in the plight to eradicate the blight.

Of course the t-shirts are just the ‘coal face’ of an organisation that continues to beaver away behind the scenes, but a t-shirt is not enough. They may be a quick, efficient method of informing the world that you thoroughly enjoyed your time in New York, admire the work of The Ramones or indeed wish to broadcast that the person to your immediate left is intellectually deficient in some way, but it’s not a potent way to change people’s attitudes toward racial discrimination and the like. Never has been, never will be.

Call it a show of solidarity if you will, but it’s little more than a cheap, easy and largely void gesture made by a campaign that doesn’t appear to have the sufficient power, opportunity or funding (FA or otherwise) to do anything more aggressive and/or effective to get its message across.

Of course, it’s not easy to criticise a campaign which is geared toward such a noble cause, but now is as good an opportunity as ever to give the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign an appraisal and a much-needed kick up the arse. They’ve done some fine work so far – football, especially in England, is so much more tolerant and encompassing than it was a depressingly short while ago –  but that shouldn’t make them indelible to scrutiny.

Posted in Featured, Kits & fashion, Media, Opinion

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  1. drags says:

    Is it just me or does it seem as though these football players are really above the law in some aspects.
    This whole court case with terry was a total farce really, i mean the money he was fined was basically his toilet paper. These guys can only be punished by not allowing them to play the game. If youre found guilty of being racist or swearing into a camera or abusing the referee, you should be banned for a while (a time that makes it seem like a punishment not a joke). also docked your wages for that time you are banned for.
    Watch the behaviour improve then, suddenly the game will actually have a bit of “manners” to it as opposed to guys doing whatever they want whenever they want.
    if cricket and rugby can get it right then why not football? Im a huge FAPL fan, but occasionally the guys behaviour is seriously shameful. nobody has the right to act like these guys, and especially guys whom so many young people look up to.

  2. Fnarf says:

    If you’re looking for people who are above the law, it’s not footballers you want.

    In a nutshell: Lazio fined £32,500 for their fans’ appalling racist chanting; Ferdinand fined £220,000 for not wearing a t-shirt. You tell me where the priorities are in that.

    The problem with the t-shirts is the same with all of these “raising awareness” publicity campaigns. Racism in football doesn’t need “awareness”; it needs action. Even the simplest football fan knows what’s going on with the fans from Lazio and Serbia, the John Terry and Luis Suarez cases, etc. But nothing ever happens besides some almost casual scapegoating. I hate John Terry, but he’s being made to carry the brunt of a world-wide problem that isn’t much his fault, while the people who ARE at fault get off free.

    And Ferdinand? Come on. Completely pointless fine, for going against Fergie — which, as we can see, is a much, much more serious offense to the powers that be than any kind of racism. Which just goes to show that Ferdinand was right to not wear the shirt. Ferguson ought to pay his fine.

  3. Papa Dopp says:

    Great article and agree with drags response aswel. I suppose its the only logical outcome from giving lots of stupid people lots of money?

  4. Mr. Chopper says:

    It’s a tricky one. Obviously as a nation we’ve come much further than some other countries (I’ll say Spain and Italy), so we wouldn’t really want to do stuff that might be detrimental towards the movement. However, on the other hand, a t-shirt isn’t going to change much.

    All this seems to have come directly off the back of the Terry thing, hasn’t it?

  5. Karan says:

    No issue, no fine. Fergie was annoyed cause he was made to look like an ass after Rio refused to wear the t-shirt last minute.
    Amusing to see the speculation here though. So pissed your favourite clubs have won next to nothing for a while now,eh?

    Also,as for the issue itself, i don’t really know why the Kick it Out Campaign is being criticised. It’s not like it has the power of the British Parliament. Might as well criticise yourself for doing nothing about it.

  6. What? says:

    Are you stupid Fnarf? The fine to be paid by Rio is being levied by Ferguson, so if he paid it he’d be paying his own fine? The fine on Rio is made by the club/manager for disobeying his manager. It has nothing to do with the shirt. The shirt which remained clean, unsoiled, unwashed and ready to be given to charity is not the issue here. None of the Lazio fans were at Saturday’s game. Nor were the Serbian fans.

  7. What? says:

    And now Ferguson has realised that he was barking up the wrong issue and has let it all go. He’s been told what it’s all about by someone who understands it – Rio – and he needs Rio for a while longer so he’s backed out. End of.

  8. Fnarf says:

    No, I’m not stupid. Apparently you are, because apparently you can’t fathom how disparate events are related. I didn’t say the Lazio fans were at the Man Utd match, meathead; I said that the levels of the fines shows what’s really important in football: disobeying the mighty Ferguson is a serious offense; racism is not. And that is why players like Ferdinand don’t want to wear the shirt, because it is hypocritical window-dressing. The FA, like UEFA, like FIFA, have no interest in doing anything real about racism, only in buffing up their public image.

  9. usrick says:

    As the article pointed out, the refusal of some players to wear the t-shirts caused more focus on the issue of racism in football than the t-shirts themselves ever would have. I have a lot of respect for SAF and much less for Rio Ferdinand, but in this case the player was in the right and the manager in the wrong.

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  11. Nil says:

    I suppose if some good is to come out of this is that people are talking about it and perhaps we will get to a point where actions do indeed start speaking louder than words and the likes of UEFA will start getting their priorities right and giving fairer punishments. It can’t be right that a team is fined more for turning up 30 seconds late for the second half than allowing racist abuse. Having said that, i don’t think this weekend’s actions will change much…

    What gets me about this, however, is how Roberts, Ferdinand et al seem to be making this gesture without any real goal. I have yet to see any of those not wearing t-shirts make some sort of reasoned rationale for their actions and a proposal for what Kick it Out or anyone else should be doing. Without that, it smacks of toys being thrown out of the pram and these players need to start being a bit more pro-active and considered if they are to be taken seriously. All i can see at present is a lot of bemusement rather than concern and a willingness to move things forward. I suppose that’s what you get when you have football players leading a political movement…

  12. Jarren says:

    Personally I just don’t see the real need for it in the UK.

    Having grown up in Northern Ireland, we didn’t really get immigrants until the late 90’s (when the troubles stopped) and people actually wanted to come and live in Belfast instead of escaping it.

    Once they did, we got all different kinds of people. African, Asian, European, you name it.

    Now, I never noticed one bit of racism. Not before the immigrants arrived, not once they had settled, and not before I had left to make a new life here in Canada a few years ago.

    I am certain the situation has not changed, and I am also certain the rest of the UK and Ireland are equally accepting of all races, religions etc.

    So what’s with this campaign?

    I mean, I just don’t get it because I don’t see racism in the UK.

    To me it’s rather ironic that the UK makes such a big deal of a problem which quite frankly is not an issue to 99.9% of the population, while there are other countries (both within the EU and beyond) that have SERIOUS racism issues that are basically ignored.

  13. MIKE says:

    Some good responses here. I’m not entirely sure why the UK makes a real song and dance about every racial slur, when as Jarren said, countries like Serbia and Poland have serious issues. A number of black players didn’t take their families to one of the biggest football events in the world this summer, for fear of their safety. Instead of trying to fix that, we’re busy fining John Terry.

    “Call it a show of solidarity if you will, but it’s little more than a cheap, easy and largely void gesture made by a campaign that doesn’t appear to have the sufficient power, opportunity or funding (FA or otherwise) to do anything more aggressive and/or effective to get its message across.”

    This is a stunningly accurate summary of my thoughts on Kick It Out.

    Keep up the good work Pies.

  14. Mikey C says:

    Football has a funny sense of morals anyway.
    A single shout to another player of “F**king black c*nt” is disgraceful, racist, must be severly punished etc, thereas
    “F**king c*nt” is normal on the pitch banter.

    Spitting is the worst crime a player can do on the pitch, players (like Jason Roberts) deny they’ve ever dived, but reserve the right to collapse if they receive the slightest trip or nudge in the penalty box.

    T shirts are all PR gestures anyway, when will players wear T shirts against drink driving and speeding, seeing that far more British players will commit these crimes?

  15. El Guapo says:

    Perhaps someone has already suggested this, but my girlfriend (who is not a football follower) had the brilliant idea of, instead of making everyone wear meaningless anti-racism T-shirts for one warm-up, make racist OFFENDERS wear a T-shirt/headband/snood/whatever that says “Racist Asshole Douchebag” or the like for an extended period of time following the pocket-change fines and brief FA ban. Genius.

  16. Jarren says:

    @El Guapo: Wearing the slogan “Racist Asshole Douchebag” really wouldn’t work in the UK, as it sounds incredibly twee to British ears.

    You know, like something the Teenage Mutant Turtles would say.

    Better to have them wear clothing with a slogan like “I AM A RACIST CUNT”.

    Perhaps best to have “…as alleged by the F.A. Tribunal Hearing” in smaller print afterwards though.

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