Dave Kitson a ‘true politician’ as he bids to Make the PFA Great Again

It has taken Kitson 73 weeks to reframe his take on players bringing racist abuse on themselves but, as Melissa Reddy writes, this feels like campaigning rather than contrition

Tuesday 05 May 2020 09:00 BST
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Dave Kitson's apology feels like too little too late
Dave Kitson's apology feels like too little too late (PA)

A slow clap for an apology at snail’s pace, if it can even be called that.

A staggering 510 days after stating “I do believe that players make themselves a target” for racist abuse, posing the question as to why Raheem Sterling in particular was a magnet for attacks when “there are other black players on the pitch every single week,” Dave Kitson is sorry.

Well, sort of if you file “perhaps I used clumsy language” 73 weeks later as a regretful acknowledgement.

The former Reading striker launched his candidacy to replace Gordon Taylor as the Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive last week, complete with a 10-point manifesto and 101 questions for the union to answer.

Both of those had a sharp focus on racism in the game with Kitson insisting more needs to be done to eradicate it.

He is right. After all, a middle-aged white man could see no issue with putting himself forward for the PFA's top job without accepting his comments in December 2018 were an upper cut to BAME players, who viewed it as an excuse for indefensible behaviour.

Perhaps it may have been easier for Kitson to ignore the overflow of criticism he received at the time for his opinion on Talksport, because he wasn’t reliant on the support of former and current black footballers?

Maybe it was also easy for the 40-year-old to go public with his plans to “rescue the PFA” without first addressing his remarks, because he was not challenged on them by the outlets who gave him a platform.

Perhaps he thought it would be as easy for everyone else to skip past his “there is no excuse whatsoever for racially abusing somebody, BUT…” line of thinking so he could evade being held to account as he transformed into the PFA's saviour to be.

So here we are, all this while later, with Kitson explaining what he actually meant.

You see, he “couldn't help but think back to the episode when I suffered a backlash as a result of posting glamorous lifestyle photos online” in reaction to Sterling being called a “f*****g black c***” during the first half of Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.

What?

“I said that I'd looked down Raheem's social media feed and that while in the beginning it was about his cars and houses, I was pleased to see he had changed it because there is a lot of jealousy out there and I knew what it was like to have been on the end of unwarranted abuse,” Kitson continued, still not grasping that he has no understanding of how it feels to be discriminated against due to skin colour or that Sterling’s Instagram was inconsequential to the attacks.

“I said that it gave people a reason to dislike him as a person. Not that he had done anything wrong on his social media account, but it gave certain people a platform to vent their ill-informed, ugly views.”

There's that ‘but' again.

Kitson was also “distressed that this has somehow morphed into a suggestion I condoned the shocking abuse Raheem suffered or that he otherwise asked for it” despite his words being “I do believe that players make themselves a target. Why Raheem Sterling?”

It seems to me that the only thing that has morphed is his need to now reframe his take - quite poorly - so his campaign to succeed Taylor doesn’t tank.

He also appeared to turn to the hackneyed ‘I have black friends’ defence too. Kitson pointed out that he converses with former teammate "Leroy Lita regularly" and he "spoke to him the other day".

“He said, ‘Dave, I know what you’re saying, I shared the dressing room with you for four years, but how you said it was clumsy’. I totally take his point and I will learn from it. It was regrettable.”

Dave Kitson has been widely condemned for his comments about Raheem Sterling
Dave Kitson has been widely condemned for his comments about Raheem Sterling (Twitter/@Talksport)

Unsurprisingly, those who have vocalised their opposition to Kitson’s campaign are unmoved by this pathetic attempt at an apology as well as the timing of it.

“He’s played it like a true politician,” was the top-corner summary of one former player.

It’s maybe only a matter of time before Kitson screams ‘fake news’ in regards to his 2005 assertion that “if a black guy goes out there and 25,000 chant at him 'you black this' or 'you black that' I don't see what the difference is if you replace it with a colour of hair or anything else.”

Or before he claims that his repeated stereotyping and belittling of players' wives and girlfriends was just a twisting from the lamestream media.

Perhaps this is too harsh or is clumsy language.

Perhaps we should all feel grateful that Kitson is willing to speak to Sterling to “put his mind – and that of other players - to rest” as he bids to Make the PFA Great Again.

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