ABSTRACT

While the previous two chapters analysed the con icts between racists and antiracists, and neo-fascists and anti-fascists, this chapter pays close attention to the responses of black players in the milieu of violence, racism and football. As black footballers began to appear regularly for clubs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they primarily struggled with questions of professionalism and respect within a publicly visible labour market that emphasized loyalty, club pride and respectability. In the face of ongoing racial abuse and discrimination, black players were o en criticized for ‘acting out’ when responding to taunts or ill-treatment. As representatives of clubs, and more broadly of British football, black players consistently came under pressure to defer to the best interests of the sport and to damper their personal emotions. As anti-racist organizations began to recruit and campaign with black footballers, however, these men came under the concomitant pressures of allegiance and resistance. When faced with situations or questions involving racial abuse, black players endeavoured to maintain proper professional conduct, but were also o en asked to express tempered derision towards racial abuse. More visceral, aggressive responses by these men to racial abuse had no place. Instead, black players o en responded to racial abuse with cleverness, humour and undermining rejoinders that defused the volatility of speci c situations without surrendering their reliability as representatives of the national sport. is chapter will elucidate the historical and transformational experiences of black players, their participation in a highly contested and politically charged social arena and the ways in which their lives have been appropriated by anti-racist organizations in an e ort to stop football racisms. In doing so, it reveals how racial and classed divides in society were not only re ected in black players’ experiences, but also challenged notions of a harmonious, multicultural Britain during this period.