It’s striking that intelligent journalists suspend their faculties when discussing the outrageous abuse of Neil Lennon in Scotland. They trot out their trite trying to keep both sides happy phrases about Lennon being “feisty” or other such unconscious (and sometimes, conscious) blame the victim nonsense. If Lennon was black then none of them would be discussing his “feistiness”. Was Mark Walters (a 1980s Rangers player who was the victim of outrageous racism, including banana throwing) “feisty”? Barry Robson put in another “feisty” performance yesterday at Celtic Park for my team, Aberdeen. Was he subjected to death threats as a result? No, I think we can forget all about “feisty” and instead ask ourselves what kind of environment has allowed the abuse of Lennon to thrive.
Sure, there is abuse of Lennon which is not sectarian as Lennon himself pointed out last week after the vile Tynecastle abuse from some Aberdeen fans. Gordon Strachan for example attracted all sorts of abuse as an player and was indeed attacked on the pitch at Celtic Park which had nothing to do with his religion. Dennis Wise in England was subjected to sustained abuse unrelated to religion, as were others. That happens in football, sadly.
However, this is to miss the point. The degree and consistency of the abuse Neil Lennon attracts is far more sinister. Bullets, bombs, physical attacks, and death threats from terrorist organisations have nothing to do with football or with winding up opponents. 90% of the abuse Lennon receives is both racist and sectarian. Much of the abuse he receives, from Aberdeen fans for example, may not be directly sectarian, but a sectarian and anti-Irish culture in parts of Scotland has already rendered Lennon as target, a hate figure, fair game for anyone else to join in it seems.
How did this happen? This is a very dangerous situation and should be investigated by anyone masquerading as a journalist - and “feisty” is one word that won’t be necessary.