In what should have been a showcase week for the English Professional Footballers’ Association rounded off with their annual awards dinner in London last Sunday, the organisation once again found itself at the centre of a furore, this time entirely of its own making.
Organisation is a curious term for one of the most shambolic establishments known to man. At least FIFA, while rotten to the core, would know how to throw a good party in a brewery. You know, the kind where everybody gets drunk …
In case you haven’t heard the story, the PFA hired a comedian to entertain the audience at their big do, but they’re not happy because he used the n-word and in the light of numerous racial incidents over the last year or so they were a bit miffed by that.
The comedian in question ?
Jim Davidson ? No, he’s a bit busy elsewhere at the minute.
Chubby Brown ? Even the FA know not to ask him to appear.
No, it was a big, black American chap who goes by the name of Reginald D.Hunter.
You’ve probably seen him on various panel shows like Have I Got News For You or perhaps on Live At The Apollo. He’s a funny guy, quite dry and he deals in everyday observational subjects, but very often – unsurprisingly – from the point of view of being a black man. He’s been nominated for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival three times and won many other accolades down the years, including one for his tour entitled Pride and Prejudice … and Niggas.
So, let’s just take a moment to recap, shall we ?
Someone at the FA booked him.
Presumably they’d seen his act or at least an appearance or two on television.
They would also presumably have seen one or two other black comedians down the years, such as Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle. It’s hard not to have seen at least something starring one of those four men if you’ve lived in the western world in the last 40 years. I know there’s some very old people in power at the FA, but even they must have watched Silver Streak back in the day ?
If there’s anyone entitled to or anyone likely to use the n-word, I kinda think it might be a black comedian, don’t you ? Especially a big, black American comedian.
The funniest thing about it all is not that they booked Hunter in the first place. Though that is pretty funny.
It’s also not that they were surprised when that word came out of his mouth.
No, we’re nowhere close to it yet …
It’s not even that the likes of Clarke Carlisle – himself a big, black footballer who also serves on the PFA – felt the need to apologise to the nation the day after the event.
No … the funniest thing about this story is that the PFA are now asking Mr Hunter to return his fee.
The words “salt” and “wound” spring to mind along with others such as “foot”, “the”, “shot”, “in” and “themselves”.
Since Monday’s initial angle with the media about how they know they made a mistake, the new take on it all is that they told the guy not to use any material that may have racial undertones.
They told that to a black comedian …
Personally, I don’t know where they go from here. How much worse can things get ?
They actually make FIFA look like a well-run establishment, and I say that on the day that their previously long-serving head honcho, Joao Havelange, has resigned as lifelong honorary president at the age of 96 for finally admitting to receiving kick-backs whilst in charge of the organisation. (Actually, I think that’s a nicely timed leak of a potentially monumental story by FIFA’s PR team. The PFA have provided the perfect smoke screen for wiley old Joao and his pocket-lining activities, but that’s another story …)
A couple of weeks ago I attended a St.George’s Day celebration in London. There were 120 or so men in the room, mostly English but not exclusively, and we were delighted to be addressed by Gulf War hero John Peters as the after-dinner speaker. Mr Peters was both eloquent and moving and he deservedly received a standing ovation for his speech and for the suffering he had to endure as a prisoner of war during the Gulf conflict, following the downing of his Tornado jet. The whole event was compered by a big, black English comedian who goes by the name of Ian Irving. Now, Ian’s there, surrounded by white men and he knows they’re in the palm of his hand, hanging on his every … word. He’s a very funny guy and he used the n-word a couple of times because – for him and for the audience – it was in context and relevant to the story.
He also varied things a little and used other words to describe himself – at one point, a waitress was serving food, so he paused for a moment in his routine and announced that for next few minutes, instead of swearing and using the F-word, he’d simply say “gardening” instead of “f**king”. He then said to the girl “Do you like gardening, love ?” and we all laughed, before he added “Remember always to use a spade” at which point the roof threatened to come off.
Now, that’s a funny line. It’s a great joke. Nobody was offended – not the waitress, nor the one black guest in the audience. Why should they be ? If it’s in context there’s nothing wrong with someone saying something. Anything.
Which makes me wonder all the more whether the PFA didn’t think all along “This might be just what we need … a little light relief to ease the tensions after a difficult year” but in the end it just backfired on them, for whatever reason.
Maybe the material was too highbrow for the average inebriated footballer ?
Maybe they got cold feet when the media heard about the booking ?
Maybe Hunter just wasn’t that funny on the night ?
Who knows … but I bet they try and book a “clean” comedian for next year.
I wonder if Bill Cosby’s free in April ?