Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 November 2014

Joe Kernan: Managers need to speak out to kick racist abuse into touch

Silence is golden — but not when condemnation of wrong-doing in any facet of life is expected

It would appear that many managers prefer to keep their counsel in relation to pinpointing the evil of racial abuse rather than make their views known publicly.

That’s the only conclusion I can come too following what has been something of a muted reaction to the treatment to which Crossmaglen Rangers player Aaron Cunningham was exposed in the recent Ulster club football final against Kilcoo.

I think it is a great pity that more managers have not united in a public chorus of disapproval against what is undoubtedly one of the most insidious practices in our sport.

It is well-known that players in several county teams engage in verbals of one form or another and I would have thought that the opportunity now presented itself for managers to take a defiant stand against this.

The manner in which the Crossmaglen Rangers v Kilcoo match was besmirched was not that far removed from what happened last Sunday when Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was struck by an object thrown from the crowd following his team’s win over Manchester City.

We certainly don’t want this type of thing happening within the GAA but this cannot be ruled out given the tensions, friction and aggravation that verbal abuse invariably triggers. Referees are of course aware of what is happening but it is difficult for them to pick up every word that is uttered by players in the heat of battle and this means that a lot of players can go through their careers virtually unchallenged for their use of what can only be described as disgusting language in the extreme.

Obviously the investigation into what happened in relation to Aaron Cunningham is ongoing. In the meantime, I would like to think that when county teams come together for the new season shortly, managers will impress on their players the need for caution, respect and tolerance.

I have grave fears that if any more incidents of serious verbal abuse are highlighted the image of the GAA could be seriously tarnished at a time when it is fighting hard to win the hearts and minds of young people throughout the country.

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