It’s entertainment – you do what the audience wants

At least, if you’re to be a successful entertainer over time you do what the audience wants:

Millwall persuade players not to take the knee but to link arms in effort to stop boos
Players collectively agree to stand arm in arm and parade an anti-racism banner at The Den

Why not just not?

There is a temptation, not unreasonably given the pain etched across the faces of Millwall’s black players, to characterise fans’ hostile reaction to their taking the knee last Saturday as racism, as the latest provocation by a club who love to be loathed. Except the booing of the gesture did not take place solely at the Den. It happened at West Ham and Colchester United, too, suggesting that this was as much a rising swell of discomfort at the injection of potentially divisive politics into sport as a display of naked prejudice.

If the audience doesn’t want it then why do it?

25 thoughts on “It’s entertainment – you do what the audience wants”

  1. But if they don’t Tim, then our enlightened betters won’t have a chance to educate all us ignorant racist/homophobicist/sexist/whateverist proles, while simultaneously showing how much better than us they all are…

    It’s not about stopping anything. If whatever it is stopped overnight, they’d just move onto the next imaginary problem. It’s about trying to control how people think.

  2. Alas and alack, it is only down the football ladder that fans have any real meaning or importance. The 60,000 who troop into Old Trafford or Eastlands or White Hart Lane are just cherries on the cake to sponsorship, TV money and selling replica shirts in Malaysia. That is why they are strip-searched and herded into tunnels to live a troglodyte existence feeding on Pukka Pies and watered down over priced Budweiser to be let out for 90 minutes of fresh air, while some over paid numpties chase each other with handbags. I am a shareholder in a 3rd Division club and we know what the sharp end is like.

  3. Hope they all stand up for minority / migrants rights when the circus plays in Qatar. Oh and rainbow laces too please. (Is there also an expression footballers can perform in favour of democratic elections? Like the Olonga/Flower “black armband protest” to protest the “death of democracy” in Zimbabwe at the 2003 Cricket World Cup – an act of genuine moral courage.

  4. “ If the audience doesn’t want it then why do it?”

    Because in most established businesses the people running it care more about what their dinner party chums (and/or partner’s girl friends) think than they do about their customers.

    Same for politicians and voters.

  5. I seem to recall that racism wasn’t much of an issue before BLM started making it one. Sure there will always be a handful of racist bigots around but the vast majority of us rub along just fine.

  6. The problem is that most non-leftist Englishmen recognise that BLM is simply a campaign to demand that black people shouldn’t have to obey the law.

    This makes black criminals and their apologists sad.

  7. the pain etched across the faces of Millwall’s black players

    Idea: Live Aid, but for footballers who are sad that their “fuck you, whitey” gestures aren’t popular.

  8. Presumably the broadcasting of the recent bbc prime time “documentary” about the Anton Ferdinand/John Terry incident was completely coincidental and non-inflammatory.

  9. “If the audience doesn’t want it then why do it?”

    Because Comcast’s Sky Sports insists and they are THE customer.

  10. “It’s entertainment – you do what the audience wants”

    If the audience actually wanted “The Vicar of Dibley”, they’ll be over the moon she’s gonna take the knee for BLM.

    They ought to get Her Majesty to do it for the Queens Speech. Kneel Britannia.

  11. I dunno tho. Feels like the “worship black people” cult has lost a lot of steam since St. George ascended into heaven, but the “worship the NHS” mystery religion is still going strong.

  12. The reason the fans are booing is that the players aren’t doing ANYTHING about sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fat shaming, etc. By saying NOTHING about these EVILS the players are expressing approval. Footballer silence = violence!

  13. Tbf there was some residual old-style racist abuse at matches. Not a lot, but not zero, and generally fans didn’t like it either. So players getting behind “Kick It Out” (as has happened for many years) wasn’t seen as particularly inflammatory or political. As far as I can see there are two main issues which have made the BLM protests more controversial and arguably more unwise.

    Firstly it’s copy-pasting something from a US context to a UK one and that neglects the issues being somewhat different, and rather inconveniently for British organisers the BLM political organisation in America has a manifesto that the Brits aren’t signed up to (defund police, abolish the family or whatever). So they’ve had to be at pains to point out they are campaigning that Black Lives Matter but are totally unaffiliated with the BLM political movement – a ridiculously fine distinction to be drawing in front of thousands of football fans rather than, say, readers of political magazines who can’t get enough of the minutiae behind the latest far-left split. Now the BLM movement generally clearly goes well beyond one organisation’s attempts to harness it for their own ends. But the organisers of the British sports protests might have done better to rebrand it as something more obviously distinct from that organisation to forestall such criticism.

    The second, perhaps deeper, problem is that these protests have been much more about structural racism (and if you’re critiquing social structures you’re inevitably political) and unconscious racism (which can come across as “you’re all racist and you’re all privileged”). So there are plenty of spectators generally in favour of “Don’t be a racist prat” style campaigns, who could get behind Kick It Out, but who would be actively uncomfortable getting behind this one.

    I also suspect demonstrating before a match about something concrete and football-related (eg to show you disapprove of racist, homophobic or religiously sectarian fan chanting even if directed against your opposition) is simply clearer and more coherent than demonstrating against deeper things like the structure of society. If you think that’s the root cause of many of the more specific problems, I can see the point, but – especially if you throw some intersectional issues into the mix – it seems you’re not far away from a vague and generic gesture to demonstrate you are opposed to Bad Things and in favour of Good Things. You’re then at risk of being interpreted as supporting a wider agenda you may not believe in, both by proponents of the agenda who wish to co-opt your support and opponents of it who may want to express their disapproval. I don’t see anti-racism demonstrations stopping any time soon, but with fans in the ground they’re going to have to get a bit cleverer how they go about it.

  14. The footballing powers have been at pains to point that that just because they use the Black Lives Matter slogan and the Black Lives Matter logo and a gesture synonymous with and popularised and politicised by Black Lives Matter that this doesn’t mean that they support the Black Lives Matter organisation.

    And those footballing powers are aghast and amazed that anyone could get confused.

    Which is a bit like a group of football supporters adopting the swastika as a symbol, a stiff right arm salute as a gesture, shouting ‘Heil Hitler’ as a greeting and then invading Poland whilst at the same time maintaining that this doesn’t mean that they support the Nazis.

  15. At Middlesbrough the players do not “take the knee” before matches at the behest of the club captain who recommends community action not political gestures. Middlesbrough’s captain Britt Assombalonga also plays for the Democratic Republic of the Congo national team. Seems like Britt realises that some black lives matter more than others to BLM.

  16. Football demonstrations should consist of black armbands when someone connected with the club or the game in general passed away. The minutes applause to replace a potentially disrupted minutes silence was well thought out and effective. Poppies on shirts was a nice idea as well until one git decided otherwise. For internationals stand to attention and respect each other’s anthems. Keep the banners and chanting non-political and not overly sectarian (especially in the socialist republic to the North). That’s about it.

    It’s notable how quickly the games authorities have shifted from penalising humorous messages revealed on t shirts after scoring a goal to mandatory genuflecting and virtue signalling by oppressed multi millionaires and sneering condemnation of the mere mortals who actually watch the game.

  17. of course for some time now football has not had spectators at games. Quite amusing that the first time they do…
    Bit like a politician facing real voters!

  18. “The Vicar of Dibley”: ah yes, the only TV show I’ve ever seen where everyone was funny except the lead.

  19. So Much For Subtlety

    Andrew C December 8, 2020 at 12:10 pm – “Which is a bit like a group of football supporters adopting the swastika as a symbol, a stiff right arm salute as a gesture, shouting ‘Heil Hitler’ as a greeting and then invading Poland whilst at the same time maintaining that this doesn’t mean that they support the Nazis.”

    In fairness to BLM – and there’s a sentence I never thought I would write – this is pretty much the position of some football fans, especially in Italy. Lazio’s supporters will often say things like, yes we used to be a Fascist team, we do the right arm thing in the stands and make monkey sounds when a Black player comes on, but that doesn’t mean we are Nazis!”

    It may even be true.

  20. not unreasonably given the pain etched across the faces of Millwall’s black players

    They want to take a brave stand — but not one that causes them even a moment’s anguish, it would seem.

    “Taking a stand” against something when everyone agrees with you is not taking a stand at all.

    Let’s see how brave they actually are.

  21. Chester,

    Last night some QPR players celebrated scoring a goal by kneeling at the corner flag and making shush gestures at the Millwall supporters.

    I doubt they would have been so “brave” away from the safety of the pitch.

    Highly privileged multi millionaire players showing their utter contempt for working class fans.

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