LATEST NEWS (Dec 1):
The media are reporting the arrest of a 26-year-old man from Chester-le-Street on suspicion of racially abusing Mrs Bent. He has been bailed pending further inquiries. No further comments can be accepted on this posting.
More details have emerged about the alleged racial taunt that caused such offence to Darren Bent’s mother, and therefore to her son. However, the reporting of the incident is inconsistent and in serious need of proper clarification …
Salut! Sunderland takes no pleasure in returning to the subject of the alleged racial slur that so outraged Darren Bent.
If a report in today’s Northern Echo is correct, then the location of the incident has moved. But it remains a matter of no less concern to what I am sure is the overwhelming majority of Sunderland fans.
Also, taking this account at face value, we can exclude any suggestion that Darren Bent’s mother misunderstood a fan’s accent or attempt at humour (which was suggested as a possible explanation in a comment posted here after our first report).
This is how the Echo reports it:
The culprit was among a crowd of Sunderland fans in a Wigan pub after the team’s 1-0 defeat over the weekend.
Bent’s mother, Shirley, was nearby as the fan was trying to get served at the bar.
When he did not get served quick enough, it is claimed he shouted at the barmaid: “Don’t treat me like I’m black.”
Mrs Bent berated the fan, telling him she was Darren’s mother and he should not abuse people.
An eyewitness, who did not want to be named, said: “She gave as good as she got and the police were called.
“She was really upset and let him know what she thought, telling him he was an absolute disgrace and should be ashamed of himself.
“The guy ran off and the man who had been with him refused to reveal his name until the police said they would arrest him instead.”
The report was slightly confusing on whether the offender had, in fact, been identified by the man with him. There have also been suggestions that the incident happened before, not after the game.
But it shouldn’t be beyond the powers of the police to identify him pretty soon and either haul him before the court or give him a stern caution.
Even though it is now clear that it happened away from the football ground, the effect is the same as if it had been inside the stadium and reflects badly on the good name of Sunderland AFC supporters – as well as being unacceptable and unpleasant in terms of the insult rightly felt by Mrs Bent.
So, subject to the facts being substantiated, this hard-of-thinking “fan” deserves an additional sanction from the club. Maybe a life ban would be harsh; exclusion for the rest of the season would send out the right message and perhaps give the culprit a useful lesson on what it is like to be considered an inferior citizen.
Some issues need to be cleared up, however. It does not now appear to have been the sort of full-on racial taunt, aimed directly at an individual, that initial reports implied.
But itf the Northern Echo report finally gets close to the truth, the remark would still have been deeply offensive to a black person standing anywhere in earshot, more so if the culprit was aware of his or her presence. It would also suggest a racialist outlook unless it really was – to adopt one comment already left here – an attempt to show empathy with black people. A cackhanded attempt, I would say, and even on that incredibly charitable interpretation, one that still requires a serious apology,
I’d like to know how the offender responded to Mrs Bent’s complaint. Did he hold up his hands in horror, saying: “You couldn’t be more wrong. My comment to the bar staff was made to demonstrate that I haven’t a racist bone in my body …”? Or did he stand his ground?
More than that, I’d like to think Shirley Bent would be the best judge of all these issues, including the level of offence taken by her and the appropriate punishment. Maybe someone is feeling so ashamed of himself that he won’t wait to be found but will quickly own up, offer that apology and take what’s coming.