The joke Roy told is a popular American joke in NASA and goes something like this:
What Roy was trying to do was use the joke to explain to the England team that Townsend, who was playing brilliantly, held the key to an England win. Now, he could have just said that Townsend was important, give him the ball and we will win. But he didn't. He tried to use a joke to ease the pressure on his team and that joke has now turned into yet another racial incident in football. This places a massive dampener on the England team, especially after two massive and important results. One player in the squad was supposedly offended by Roy’s joke and one can presume this player is the person who leaked the silly incident to the paper.NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions.They fire the man and the monkey into space.The intercom crackles, "Monkey, fire the retros".A little later, "Monkey, check the solid fuel supply".Later still, "Monkey, check the life support systems for the man".The astronaut takes umbrage and radios NASA, "When do I get to do something?"NASA replies, "In 15 minutes - feed the monkey".
Respected journalist and personal favourite of mine, Oliver Holt, wrote in his article in the Mirror this morning “The joke is insensitive, perhaps, in the current highly charged racial climate in football”. The key word here is perhaps. Depends how sensitive you are I guess. I think we are becoming a little hyper -sensitive. To put it into context, Roy didn't do a Ron Atkinson. He didn't look Townsend in the eye and call him a derogatory racial name did he. He didn't throw a banana at him or use the N word. Mark Bright said on Twitter “why use the term “Feed the Monkey” with right black players in the room”. Every monkey or ape reference is not a racial comment Mark.
Ok, Roy could have used a better analogy to emphasise the importance of Townsend and getting him the ball. I don’t know Roy at all, but he has worked with many black players all over the world. He is an elegant, well-educated and articulate man. I’m sure well all know Roy is not a racist and just to point out, Oliver Holt’s article is not suggesting he is. So why has this made the papers then? If Roy isn't a racist and we all know he isn't, then what’s the big deal. Townsend didn't take any offence to the joke. He didn't complain. He didn't go to the papers and leak the story. His dad, who works for the Kick It Out campaign, hasn't complained either. So what’s the fuss about?
This mystery player is believed to be offended by the JOKE and felt it has racial connotations. As I said, Roy could have used a better analogy than the space monkey one but seriously, has it come to this. Are we struggling that much for news or sport content to publish a story like this? Will the words monkey, ape or chimp be soon banned from football. There is a racist comment like Ron Atkinson’s and then there is a joke. There is the Suarez and Evra incident and then there is Roy’s joke. The difference is plain to see. Stan Collymore, one of the most sensitive guys in football, summed it up in this tweet last night saying “Racism is hard enough to keep on the agenda as it is without making everyone think legitimate space joke should be cause for offence”. Well done Stan, a man of Afro-Caribbean decent, who knows all too well what racism is about.
Roy issued an apology stating that he had spoken to Townsend and the player was fine. He apologised if his joke caused anyone any offence. I’m sure he knows he could have used a better analogy but the unfortunate thing is this joke will over-shadow the remarkable achievement of qualifying for the World Cup and finishing top of the group. It was a bad joke. Not a racist comment. Two very different things. To be honest I even feel ashamed writing an article about this nonsensical tripe. How this made it into a newspaper is beyond me. Why didn't the player just reveal himself and say he was offended? I'll tell you why, because if he did reveal himself and told the world he was offended by Roy’s joke, he would be ridiculed. So instead he hides behind a news story.
Some of you may say “Who are you or we to define what offends other people”. But if this player feels so strongly about it then he should have approached the manager and spoken to him, rather than run off and leak it to the press. Oliver Holt was just doing his job by informing the public. Oliver isn't to blame. Roy isn't to blame. No one is to blame. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep, this offended mystery player will see what a joke this incident has become.
Can we get back to football please?