Last night, I read a piece that made me ask some uncomfortable questions of myself. Steve Bloomfield, the deputy editor of the Prospect, wrote that as long as John Terry played for Aston Villa, he could continue to support the club due to the racist language the defender used towards Anton Ferdinand in 2011.
I, of course, support Chelsea — the club for which Terry played before his transfer to Villa and the club that gave him but a slap on the wrist for racism. Even at the time that Terry was banned for four matches by the FA for uttering the words “f******* black c***”, I felt that he had got off too lightly.
However, I never questioned Chelsea’s decision to keep Terry as captain — simply because I knew how important he was to the club as a player and leader. In hindsight, I didn’t understand just how serious Terry’s offence was at the time.
Since 2008, I’ve owned an England shirt with his name on the back. (It was too big for me at the time I bought it.) I was proud to wear that shirt as a child, but I stopped wearing it outside the house once I came to understand the seriousness of his offence in 2011.
I realise after reading Bloomfield’s piece that I didn’t go far enough. From now on, I will no longer wear that shirt at all under any circumstances.
Sport invokes a deep sense of tribalism within us and it is easy to let that blind us. When we feel a deep connection to a team, we sports fans always want to idolise the star players in it.
Chelsea is the nearest football club to where I was born and, as I explained in a previous blog post, being away from London has only made my love for them stronger. In my opinion, Terry is the best footballer who has ever played for the club. He was one of my boyhood heroes, but if I could turn back the clock, I wouldn’t have bought any Chelsea products from the day the club let him stay on as captain until the day he left the club.
Unfortunately, I can’t turn back the clock, but what I can do is think about what type of journalist I want to become. Given that I want to be a sports journalist, I need to learn to get rid of my rose-tinted outlook on professional athletes and start asking the sporting elite the sorts of uncomfortable questions that Bloomfield made me ask myself.