James McClean: FA and Kick It Out are a bunch of cowards
Ireland winger calls hypocrisy on how he has been treated compared with Raheem Sterling
Ireland’s James McClean has said the FA and Kick It Out are hypocrites in how they treat him and other players who receive racial abuse. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Republic of Ireland international James McClean has accused both the English FA and British anti-racism charity Kick It Out of hypocrisy and cowardice over their reaction to the abuse he has received in England, much of it in relation to his refusal to wear a commemorative poppy.
At the start of last month the Stoke City player used social media to highlight one particular piece of hate mail he had received; a birthday card containing a long stream of anti-Irish abuse. The message on the cover of the card is changed so as to suggest McClean have “an amazing death,” there is a reference to “Fenian sub-human bastards” and the 30-year-old Derryman is goaded about the 13 people who died on Bloody Sunday with the number referred to as a football scoreline.
McClean posted pictures of the card with the comment: “No words needed”.
Speaking this week at an event to promote the Aviva sponsored FAI Soccer Sisters programme, a scheme intended to encourage more girls to play the game, McClean said that he had publicised the incident so as to draw attention to what he sees as the contrast between the reaction to the abuse he has received and the widespread condemnation of the racism suffered by Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling.
“The only reason I highlighted it and the only reason I put it up was to prove a point and I think I proved it all right,” he said. “It’s that Kick It Out and the FA are a bunch of hypocrites, a bunch of cowards.
“Look at the Sterling case, previously. He’s been lauded as this kind of hero for speaking out; getting awards and this and that. What he got is nothing compared to what I’ve got for the past seven or eight years. And there hasn’t been a peep, a single word or contact. I got a token gesture from the Kick It Out after people highlighted it and went after them. Nothing will ever be done. I’m a white Irishman – to put it bluntly, that’s not high on the agenda in England.”
Sterling has indeed been widely lauded for the stand he has taken in relation to the persistent racist abuse he has received. In recent months he has been targeted in high profile incidents while playing for Manchester City at Chelsea’s ground, Stamford Bridge last December and for England in Montenegro in March.
The 24-year-old was also routinely on the receiving end of negative press from elements of the mainstream British print media. The treatment he has received has been widely condemned, however, and he has received a great deal of praise for the way he has spoken about it.
McClean, by contrast, feels the FA, Kick It Out and others have sought to look the other way for the best part of a decade as he has been repeatedly targeted inside grounds and on social media for his stand over the poppy issue. He has been outspoken on the issue most recently last November when he described those who had abused him at a club game between his own side Stoke City, and Middlesbrough, as “uneducated cavemen”. He also quoted Bobby Sands at the time and referred to himself as “a proud Fenian,” but vehemently rejects the suggestion now that he has brought some of the abuse on himself through the way he has engaged.
“No, definitely not,” he says. “I like to think I’m a principled guy and I’m not going to sell myself out for something I don’t believe in. I would rather be true to myself and be perceived by the people that mattered, the people of Derry, my own people, for staying true to myself, rather than bow down and sell myself out for just an easy life. I don’t think I deserve it at all.
“Being from Derry,” he continues, “growing up in the aftermath and seeing the effect it has on people, and knowing my history, I don’t think I have a choice to wear a poppy. I don’t think someone from Derry ... I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion ... but I don’t agree with someone wearing a poppy and being from Derry.”
The abuse he has received as a result of taking that position has not, he believes, attracted anything like the support from the game’s relevant bodies that Sterling’s stand has.
“Be consistent.” he says. Asked how it was that the two bodies, or others, have failed him, he says: “They never contacted me for starters. Do you watch Sky Sports News? Have you ever seen a story about me being discriminated against? There wasn’t a peep about the birthday card. So, just be consistent. The reason I was doing it was to simply highlight what a bunch of hypocrites they are.
“I don’t want their sympathy,” he says. “Honestly, to put it bluntly, they can ram it, I don’t want it. It’s just a fact of proving a point that they are a bunch of hypocrites and a bunch of cowards. I think it highlights that pretty well.”
*James McClean and Josh Cullen were speaking at the Aviva Soccer Sisters Dream Camp in Aviva Stadium where over 100 girls were given the opportunity to play on the same pitch as their international heroes. This year’s Aviva Soccer Sisters saw a 107% increase on last year’s figures, with 7,322 girls participating Easter festivals throughout the country. See aviva.ie/soccersisters or check out #SafeToDream on social media for further details.