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When it comes to racism is it ok to say sorry and move on?

RACISM: Uruguay and France players pose with officials before the game to promote FIFA's Living Football campaign against racism

IT IS a sign perhaps of how far we've come in football that when Maurizio Sarri was being interviewed for the Chelsea manager job he had to assure his future employers that he is neither a homophobe or sexist.

I'm guessing this wasn't a question put to all the candidates (assuming there were other candidates!) – Sarri has had two previous incidents which clearly concerned the powers-that-be at Stamford Bridge.

While managing Napoli he had a touchline row with Roberto Mancini during a match with Inter Milan and used two homophobic slurs aimed at the former Manchester City man. Sarri was fined but earlier this year he made a sexist and derogatory comment to a female journalist.

He's apologised and assured Chelsea that these comments don't represent his views on either the gay community or women and is now talking about signings, bonding with the fans and winning trophies.

Everyone makes mistakes, says the wrong thing at the wrong time and we all have to say sorry once in a while. But when it comes to racism or homophobia or hate speech of any kind is it ok to say sorry and encourage everyone to move on? Does the old idiom "once a racist, always a racist" hold true?

Doesn't everyone deserve a second chance? Jamie Carragher will be back working at Sky next season just a few months after being caught on film leaning out of his car and spitting at a Manchester United fan who was driving in the next lane. The broadcaster suspended him but soon he'll be back on our screens. Why? Well, he's said sorry, Sky presumably are confident it won't happen again but he's also taken anger management classes.

This re-education process is one that is close to my own heart, and I've gone on the record about it.

Problematic apologies
Malky Mackay was at Cardiff when during a period of three years he exchanged a series of racist, homophobic and sexist emails with his head of recruitment. The FA decided not to take action as the ex-defender was entitled to a "reasonable right to privacy".

I didn't like that and said so. I thought the FA had undermined its own credibility. Women in Football's statement at the time talked about the decision – or lack of it – providing "carte blanche for individuals and organisations to discriminate against women, ethnic minorities, LGBT and other minority groups".

Mackay's union – the League Managers Association (LMA) – said sorry on his behalf: "The LMA does not condone in any way any potential breach of equal-opportunities laws but would also point out that out of over 10,000 text messages and 70,000 documents produced over a long period of time it may not be a complete surprise that some inappropriate comments can sometimes be made by employees, like Malky, working under great pressure in highly charged situations."

Which is fine but then comes the "if" word – always a problem word in any apology.
"If Malky has caused any offence by these two isolated matters he would, however, wish to sincerely apologise.”

It wasn't the LMA's finest hour.

PICTURED: Malky Mackay

In December 2016, Mackay was appointed performance director at the Scottish FA and there was a backlash among fans. He and his employers stayed firm and a little less than a year later, he was asked to be caretaker manager of the national team after Gordon Strachan left, having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
I was asked for my opinion. I said what he wrote was unacceptable.

So far so good but I surprised some when I said: "People learn from their mistakes and hopefully Malky has and will demonstrate on behalf of the people of Scotland and to the people of Scotland that he’s worthy of such a position. People need to move on. He is not Harvey Weinstein.”

I meant it then and I mean it now. People should be given the opportunity to change their ways and learn from their previous behaviour.
What about the fans? Do they deserve another chance?

In my role as chair of Kick It Out I speak to a lot of people – including my colleagues at the Football Supporters Federation – who work with fans who have been found to have used discriminatory language either in person or online and have been either told or advised to have some form of training or education before they can be allowed back in the stands.

Some clubs have a zero tolerance policy – you shout out words of hatred and that's it, hand over your season ticket and don't come back. Others prefer to try to work with the fan and make them see how offensive their behaviour is.
I have heard tales of fans breaking down in tears when they realise the gravity of what they've said or written. They didn't mean it, it was banter, they were angry because their team had lost, they heard their father or mother saying it.

I have heard of others who are so entrenched, so blinkered you feel they will never understand but then can't work out that unless they do they won't be going back to see their favourite team anytime soon.

I'm glad that football is taking all of these issues more seriously and yes I do feel that people deserve a second chance. But a third? Don't get me started on that!

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