Reginald D Hunter and the PFA: Talking about racism isn’t the problem

Hunter’s vocabulary is an attempt to disarm a word designed to hurt him

Share

Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association, was mortified by his organisation’s choice of comedian for its annual awards the other night.

The PFA had picked Reginald D Hunter, enthusing beforehand that “his jokes ring true” and looking forward to his “topical content”. But when, in the event, Mr Hunter made repeated use of the word “n*****”, it didn’t go down too well. The organisers had apparently asked him to avoid talking about race, which may call into question how attentive they were to the CV of a comedian known for such shows as Trophy N*****, A Mystery Wrapped in a N*****, and Pride and Prejudice and N*****s.

Anyway, the PFA, shocked, shocked by the use of the N-word, is now asking for its money back, which raises an interesting question about refunds the next time Luis Suarez deploys an unfortunate epithet. The first signal of such a move came with Mr Carlisle’s comments the day after the ceremony. “We made a really gross error of judgement,” he said. “When you go to a comedy store, you know you might have to leave your moral compass at the door. But the PFA awards dinner is not the time to have an act like that.”

This is a striking idea. Imagine, on the one hand, comedy clubs, those hotbeds of bigotry, full of gleefully amoral punters setting any objections to one side because they just think racism is hilarious; and, on the other, football clubs, where they’re doling out moral compasses, if anything, to the hummus-eating softies who gather to enjoy a game played by gentlemen, and don’t chant vile things, ever, and where no star is so big that his bigotry will be overlooked.

Somehow, that doesn’t ring true. To the outside observer, this doesn’t look like an instance of comedy’s race problem. Instead, it looks like a game so paralysed by anxiety that it is unable to make the distinction between being racist and talking about racism – and unwilling to pay anyone who is attentive to that difference. I’ve seen Mr Hunter perform: his vocabulary is plainly part of a considered attempt at disarming a word that represents something repugnant, a word, as he puts it, “that was designed to hurt me”. “It’s about context,” he has said. “The word itself is not the problem.” We might dispute the wisdom of this position. But the argument is not about moral compasses.

Why can’t football handle this idea? Well, our thinking might be clarified by the game’s attitude to an honour for the striker Ched Evans, a convicted rapist, at last year’s shindig. In the aftermath of that decision, PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor helpfully explained that taking him out of the team “would have created more of a storm”. That’s right, folks: the problem isn’t being racist, or being a rapist, or being part of a culture so uninterested in self-criticism that its worst offenders tend to be left with no more than a slapped wrist and an unjustified sense of grievance. The problem isn’t any of that. The problem, as Reginald D Hunter has found to his cost, is talking about it.

Twitter: @archiebland

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager - Software & Services

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Exhibition Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding B2B exhibition and...

Recruitment Genius: QA Technician

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer of re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, who has its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival  

FAO Jamie Dornan: For a woman, being followed is not 'exciting' — it's humiliating and all too familiar

Mollie Goodfellow
By pretending to be a man, Mulan was able to join the army, defeat the Huns, and save China  

Disney is making a live-action Mulan? Well, that's one way to ruin the best film they've ever done

Helen Pye
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat