I apologize for any offense #MakesMeSick

 

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In 2012, English footballer Andre Gray tweeted Is it me or are there gays everywhere? #Burn #Die #Makesmesick”.’

Following Gray’s winning goal against Liverpool yesterday, the striker ran for cover as his vile spew was discovered and re-tweeted. Gray said , ‘I want to offer a sincere and unreserved apology to anybody I may have offended in relation to these tweets. His statement went on to assert that he is ‘a completely different person’ now, and that any suggestion that gay people should die or burn was amongst his ‘big mistakes’: he is ‘absolutely not homophobic.’

Gray’s club and fans rallied to his support. In a brief statement Burnley FC minimized the remarks as ‘historical social media posts’ and, while condoning Gray’s ‘apology’, said the club ‘”do[es] not condone any discriminatory behaviour by any employee’. The cowardly evasion did not even appear on the club’s own homepage. And why should it? Gray apologized; he is a whole new person; he is not homophobic.

But none of this is credible, and the stinking words cling like a shitty diaper to Gray, to Burnley, and to the whole Premier League.

First, the ‘apology’ was obviously not written by Gray. The lawyerly tropes, ‘sincere and unreserved and in relation to these tweets’ are not items in any linguistic register in which Gray speaks. The statement is a shallow and phoney lawyer’s production.

Second, suggesting that gay people should burn (or be burned?), die (or be put to death?) is not something that ‘may have offended’ people. To imply that mere offense is at issue here regurgitates the hatred. Admittedly, Gray’s words are not what English law regards as incitement to murder, but they fall squarely within what is, in many jurisdictions, criminal hate speech.  And even where the law tolerates such filth, sane people can see it for what is: a symptom of a dangerously disordered outlook.

Third, there was no psychological rift between 2012 and 2016 that could warrant Gray disowning his words as those of ‘a completely different person’, and no moral rift that could warrant Burnley dismissing them as a ‘historical’ evil. Gray is the person now that he was four years ago, and in 2012 anyone who was not a monster would know that gay people do not deserve to burn or die. Moreover, Gray’s views about sex and gender still remain on flamboyantly ignorant display in April 2015, as we see in his pathetic comment about Joseline Hernandez’ pregnancy:

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Fourth, Gray’s assertion that he ‘can only apologise and ask forgiveness’ is absurd. The club is paying him £6 million for three years’ work. If Gray were to return, say, 1/36th of that in compensation for his wrongful conduct, it would only be £167,000. Four weeks of service to those he said should burn or die. So it isn’t true that he can only apologize: he could do more if only he wanted to. Who to compensate? One appropriate recipient would be Sport Allies, who work to eradicate homophobia in UK sport.

Should we, as some suggest, think that Gray’s early life—in poverty, gang-culture, and racism—mitigates his wrongdoing, that it frees him of the responsibilities of any other human being?   No. In this case, the experience of oppression is not a mitigating factor but an aggravating one. Gray of all players should be able to identify the wrong he has done. He is well-placed to know just what it is like to be always at the sharp end of the stick. He would understand the menace in this:

“Is it me or are there blacks everywhere? #Burn #Die #MakeMeSick”.

Gray would never accept a mere apology for ‘any offense’ caused by those words. Neither should we accept his apology–and  neither should Burnley or the Premier League.

 

3 thoughts on “I apologize for any offense #MakesMeSick

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with all of this, save the last bit. Living in abject poverty can inculcate the sort of moral myopia that makes such an outburst understandable in the sense that one can trace a fairly decent explanation of his post to those early life circumstances from an armchair (with a bit of folk sociology in the background) To say that he should’ve been “more” not “less” sensitive to all manifestations of oppression because of these circumstances is to fail to really engage with the particulars of ppls moral development in those conditions. But, it goes without saying really, all of this does nothing to mitigate the stance we should take against such hate. Gray is dispicable, but perhaps a little more understandably so.

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    • I agree that this could make his conduct more understandable, ie explicable, intelligible etc.

      My claim it that it is not mitigating. And I think it is clear that I am not here attempting to engage with the fine-grained particulars of Gray’s life, not even as represented by his apologists. I’m just addressing their coarse-grained claim that a very rough background mitigates, or maybe even excuses, this sort of evil. (I don’t deny that it mitigates other sorts, eg shoplifting, tax evasion etc.)

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  2. Perhaps I have a wobbly understanding of the sense of “mitigate”, you intended. As I took it, the evil in act-types (even those so banal as Twitter posts) is not mitigated by various facts about the moral (or greater socio-cultural) development of those who engage in them. I take it you would agree with this. It seems that you had something stronger in mind–namely, that the sorts of (reactive) attitudes we take towards various folks in light of their actions are not sensitive to various facts about their early life upbringing and the ideologies absorbed thereby.–well, this is not quite right–you delimit the scope somewhat (admitting mitigation along these lines can happen along such lines as petty theft, etc.). To be honest, I wonder if there’s an unreasonable line drawn here–violence, hate speech, etc. can have powerful effects on psychological development just as living in circumstances of desperation and squalor can. In fact, it seems like some of the negative effects of the former can last longer. For instance, in Gray’s case–without knowledge of the specific details of his life (he is, as it were, of marginal footballing fame)–I suppose that I would be less likely to be sensitive to his background in response to a financial crime committed than this particular act. This is splitting hairs though, since–again, for all its banality–Gray’s comment is so absurdly evil that, even taking such background facts into consideration, I can’t but castigate him for it. I’m surprised that anyone would say that such a background lets you off the hook for such comments. In any case, the apology is a slimy thinly vailed attempt to get off that hook immediately without any real, patient attempt to “sweat to make amends” with the gay community as you clearly expose.

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