Hill defends Atkinson over racist remark

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The Independent Online

The former Match of the Day presenter Jimmy Hill has enraged campaigners by insisting that racist comments are simply a matter of "fun" between footballers.

The former Match of the Day presenter Jimmy Hill has enraged campaigners by insisting that racist comments are simply a matter of "fun" between footballers.

In an interview with The Independent published today, Mr Hill leapt to the defence of fellow pundit Ron Atkinson who resigned from ITV last month after describing Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly as a "lazy, fucking thick nigger".

Atkinson, 65, who accepted he was "an idiot" and apologised, was unaware his microphone was on at the time and the remarks were broadcast in the Middle East.

When asked whether Mr Atkinson should have resigned, Mr Hill insisted it was the "language of the football field".

The 75-year-old, who now presents a weekly programme on Sky Sports, added: "In that context, you wouldn't think that words like nigger were particularly insulting: it would be funny. Without meaning to insult any black men, it's us having fun.

"What about jokes about my long chin? I mean, nigger is black - so we have jokes where we call them niggers because they're black. Why should that be any more of an offence than someone calling me chinny?"

Piara Powar, director of Kick It Out, football's anti-racism group, described the comments as "mind boggling" and out of touch with today's footballers. "Jimmy Hill's comments are as offensive as Ron Atkinson's. It is a frightening insight into some of the attitudes his generation still hold," he added.

Brendon Batson, former deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said: "I am a bit surprised by Jimmy's comments. That is the most insulting word to the black community."

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