Is there such a thing as nice abuse?
In this post Professor Jonathan Long assesses the use of the term "Yid" by Tottenham Hotspur fans, following the FA's threat that any fan caught chanting the word could face criminal charges.
So David Cameron thinks it is quite all right for Tottenham fans to refer to themselves as ‘Yids’ in their football chants. I recognise that there is an argument to be made in support of the position of the PM and the Tottenham fans, but having conducted research in this area for years I am driven to disagree.
Who am I to criticise the prime minister? Fortunately I’m in good company: the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Football Association (FA) and Kick It Out have all insisted that "Yid" should no more be used at football grounds than anywhere else, and the FA has warned that its use could mean a ban or prosecution.
Our research on racism in sport has repeatedly shown the damage that can be caused by what some people refer to as ‘just words’. The Spurs fans insist that they are ‘reclaiming’ the word and Cameron argues that they are neither using the word as an insult nor to promote hate. Unfortunately rather than robbing the word of its hurtful meaning the consequence of this action is far more likely to be to fuel the opposition’s barrage of insults. This is a barrage that will not be restricted to the stadium; its promotion by Spurs fans will heighten its everyday use. Moreover, it undermines attempts to remove the insulting language from the game. I bring your attention to (and commend) this Kick It Out video:
In any case, the vast majority of the Spurs fans doing the chanting are not Jewish, so their claims of ‘reclaiming’ are somewhat tenuous.
Lest anyone should think that anti-semitic abuse is restricted to Tottenham; it occurs at grounds around the country. Indeed, it will be familiar to fans of Leeds United, a club that has long had a strong link with the local Jewish community. This is not just about Tottenham fans, it’s not just about football – “Yid” is a race hate word.
Photo used under Creative Commons licence and used courtesy of Oliver Mallich