Scottish Women's Football

My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football

Should Fury Remain On The SPOTY Shortlist?

So it’s that time of year again when we all start talking about the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award (SPOTY), both who should be on the list and who should win. It is a measure of strength in British sport that you can easily write a second list of twelve nominations.

But one nomination has caused controversy. Tyson Fury.

Let us get a few things down on the table. I do not like boxing. I don’t understand the attraction of the sport, but I find test cricket nail-bitingly enthralling. So I really can’t complain too much about people liking boxing. And that I believe the SPOTY should not discriminate on sport’s popularity. So, cricket should not have anymore priority over tiddlywinks for example. A small caveat though is it is unlikely many journalists spend their weeks pouring over the development of the fierce tiddlywinks competitions.

However, should Tyson Fury be on the shortlist?

SPOTY

First question. Did he do enough on sporting merit? Yes, beating Wladimir Klitchisko is an incredible achievement.

Second question and this will take a bit longer to argue, does what you say affect whether you should be on the award?

Again, laying down my cards, I find his comments on women and homosexuals revolting. You can even argue that his comments that a “I believe a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back” states that women should not even be educated.

To examine this question, let us examine a hypothetical scenario.

Say a footballer scores 25 goals between January and May as their club wins the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and the Champions League. They then score 15 goals as England wins the World Cup and then goes on to score 30 goals in the next season about a week before the nominations are announced.

And here are a few hypothetical scenarios:

  1. The footballer is charged with murder and pleads guilty.
  2. The footballer is charged with murder and pleads not guilty.
  3. The footballer says a “racially offensive” word on live TV.
  4. The football says a “racially offensive” word in a print interview but denies making the comment.
  5. The footballer says something politically offensive.

The first scenario obviously sees the player taken off the nomination. If you commit a crime, your sporting career has to take a hiatus at the best, but with murder, it is career over.

The second scenario is a bit more complicated. What about innocent before proven guilty? But once again, I think that once again the player is removed. Whilst they may be innocent, you cannot take that chance with an award (regardless of the fact it is the BBC). Imagine how the victim’s family would feel seeing that player celebrated in this way?

So this is the line that you cannot cross. If you commit (or charged with) a crime, you are automatically banned from the shortlist.

Scenario Three is when things start to get murky. The word I am referring to is obvious and highly offensive, but assuming the player does not break the law, then this is where things get really, really tricky.

Four is a more interesting scenario as there is a denial of the word being used (was it misheard) but you expect there to be a transcript in modern journalism so three and four are in a sense identical.

Despite the name of SPOTY involving the word ‘personality’, I don’t believe it ever judges personality. I don’t think, for example, Michael Owen has a distinguishable personality. So I think the issue of the word means more about the basis of the sportsman’s lifestyle.

Now, here comes the crux of the Fury issues (which you can class in either one of the scenarios three, four and five). What do you do about a sports star who says a revolting thing?

Whilst children do look up to certain sports stars like Lewis Hamilton, Lucy Bronze or Andy Murray for sporting advice – it is worrying if a child becomes radically influenced by a sports star’s morality. I think when things become subliminal, it becomes dangerous. You could hope that every girl or gay children will know that they are better than Fury’s comments, but where it gets dangerous is if someone thinks their gender, race or sexuality affects their sporting ability. For example, do young gay footballers think they can’t come out and play in the Premier League? It is wrong if that is the case, but at the moment, you can understand why someone growing up may feel that.

So when anyone says anything as perverse as Fury, it must be defeated. The petition to get Fury kicked off the short list is admirable, but misguided. Here is the big but.

Why are we so quick to ban?

I will be voting for Lucy Bronze for SPOTY.

I will be voting for Lucy Bronze for SPOTY.

I find Fury abhorrent enough for my relentless and irrationally optimistic patriotism to take a vacation for a day, but I still think he should be on the shortlist. Because here is the point. If someone says, “a woman’s place is on her back and making a cup of tea” and you can’t come up with an immediate rebuttal then, how can you claim the moral high ground? The first point is you make the argument that attributes like creativity, imagination, determination – they don’t understand gender or sexuality or race. How can creativity understand the difference between a woman and a man?

So yes, Tyson Fury is an idiot, but unfortunately, there are lots of idiots out there at the moment. Quite a few, one in particular, are trying to become the President of the United States of the America. What has happened to our ability to defend issues through arguments and debate? You see this throughout politics and life. When someone says something transphobic, you hear people shout ‘ban them’! But what happens if someone hears that transphobic comment and says, ‘yes, that is actually right’. Where do you get the right of reply to correct the transphobic comment? In a debate.

Imagine on the night, BBC’s presenter Clare Balding interviews Fury and asks him about those comments.

If a child watches on that night and thinks religion, race, gender and sexuality affects their sporting ability, the rebuttal will be done by Lizzie Armitstead, Lucy Bronze, Jessica Ennis-Hill. And when England Women win the Team of the Year, every girl will realise they can play football.

So when a moron tells them “you’re a girl, you can’t play football.” They will reply. “What about Karen Bardsley? Lucy Bronze? Clare Rafferty? Fran Kirby? Jodie Taylor? Eni Aluko? Laura Bassett? Steph Houghton……”

I’ll leave you to keep that list going.

What do you think? Do you think Fury should be on the shortlist? Or maybe that he shouldn’t be there? Let me know in the comments below.

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