Just yesterday, we were laughing with West Ham fans who made a video mocking last week’s Paris Métro incident, one that celevrated their ability to ride on trains in a civil manner with black poeple. Apparently, for some of them, that courtesy doesn’t extend to Jewish passengers.
To pile on to the irony, the club had e-mailed warnings to all ticket-buying fans days before the match, reminding them of the zero-tolerance policy in place for discriminatory actions. For one group of West Ham fans destroyed, though, this weekend’s game at Tottenham was a chance to destroy all of the positive racial harmony vibes collected by the earlier video.
Obviously, West Ham’s warning wouldn’t have been necessary unless there was an established history of fans behaving terribly at Tottenham – a club that’s traditionally enjoyed strong Jewish support. In standard fashion, a representative for West Ham spoke to Sky, condemning the chants.
“If any individual is found to have behaved in an inappropriate way, the Club’s simple, zero-tolerance policy dictates that they will face the strongest possible action, including the option of a life ban from the Boleyn Ground. If anyone has any information on such behaviour we would urge them to report it to the Club, Kick It Out or the police so it can be investigated thoroughly.”
Like Chelsea’s gestures after Paris, West Ham’s response was copied and pasted from the “our fans did somthing terrible” handbook, because there are now standard operating procedures for this sort of thing. Kick It Out, “football’s equality and inclusion organization,” received several videos of West Ham fans engaged in the anti-semitic chants and notifications across their social media platforms, turning all of the information over to local police. The organization’s chairman, Lord Herman Ouseley, wants clubs and the Football Association itself to do more, saying, “All too often there is silence or half-hearted statements made by those with power and influence when it comes to countering discrimination within the game. This must change now if we are to make a difference.”
It’s easy to want clubs to do more but difficult to determine what their level of responsibility should be. Soccer teams certainly aren’t responsible for shaping society as a whole or creating more tolerant citizens. That’s our job as conscientious members of our communities. But when so much negativity happens in “honor” a club crest, teams can’t ignore their responsibility in helping to shape an inclusive culture.
The line of responsibility is difficult to place, but it’s one that probably goes beyond press releases. Clubs must do more to root out elements of hate within their clubs before being forced to do so as a response to public pressure.