The resignation of Michael Johnson from the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board shows up a sporting organisation unwilling to properly tackle homophobia, says Rob Buchanan.
Michael Johnson has resigned from the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board following criticism over comments he made in 2012 describing homosexuality as “detestable”. However the comments only caused outrage last week, calling in to question the suitability of Johnson for such a highly sensitive appointment.
Johnson, 40, played for Nott’s County, Birmingham City, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday, and retired from playing in 2009. This latest fumble in the FA’s appointments showed the lacklustre approach they have to tackling homophobia, in stark contrast to its other worthy and highly muscular campaign against racism. It is unthinkable that an openly racist person might be appointed to a similar position.
There has already been string of controversies regarding the FA’s appointments to these commissions, which have received criticism and backlash for a lack of racial and gender diversity. Its infamously awful 2010 anti-homophobia video campaign was met with extremely mixed reviews, worsened by unexplained delays to its limited release. Many critics said the video’s concept was half-baked, due to a lack of consultation with actual gay groups. Some even said the video and associated campaign could actually result in more homophobia in the terraces.
Johnson’s homophobic comments were not throwaway. During the BBC’s The Big Questions TV show he was asked if he would support the FA’s anti-homophobic campaign, or whether it would be contrary to his Christian faith, Johnson said: “Because of my beliefs, because of the Bible that I read, in the Bible it does state that homosexuality is detestable unto the Lord”.
Questions need to be asked. Does the FA actually have a clue how to combat homophobia? Does it really care about homophobia at all? Professional football in general seems to have taken a half-hearted approach when it comes to tackling hatred of gays. From the FA’s appointment of an admitted homophobe to the Inclusion Advisory Board to FIFA scheduling the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where gay fans are as likely to be stoned to death, it seems not. FIFA president Sepp Blatter says homophobia in Qatar is a “moral and ethical issue”. And his salient advice to gay fans attending Qatar in 2022 to “refrain from any sexual activities”, summing up the entire ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy of professional football.
Michael Johnson’s comments were made in 2012 – are we so certain that he has not seen the light since then and learned from his mistakes ? Homophobia is not irredeemable; in fact if we were to entertain the idea that it was, then what would be the point of trying to educate people at all?
Although he was born in Nottingham, perhaps the reason for his beliefs lies in Johnson’s background and associations with Jamaica. He is a full Jamaican international with 12 caps for the Jamaican national side. Jamaica is a country whose overt violence and intimidation towards homosexuality will sadly be no surprise to readers of The Outmost.
It is perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes in civil rights that so many of the nations most ardent in the persecution of homosexuals are also those which bear the scars of post-colonialism, countries whose populations knew en masse the pain of living as a second class citizen, devoid of equal rights and kept down from progression. If only those same communities, who were blighted by inequality due to skin colour, could see the manifold links between their struggle and the cause of gay rights.
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