Tuesday, April 23, 2024

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Mind your mouthings

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The multimillionaire owner of the upscale Lone Star Hotel and Restaurant on Barbados’ West Coast is learning the hard way why people are often advised to “watch your language”.

Dave Whelan, the owner of Wigan Athletic and the stadium where the football team plays in England, was recently banned by The Football Association (FA)  for six weeks from football-related activities; fined almost $200 000, and ordered to undertake a mandatory education programme so he can learn more about people, their religion and ethnicity after reported allegedly negative portrayals about Jews and Chinese.

The wealthy businessman, who has been coming to Barbados for decades and fell so much in love with the country that he reportedly paid $26 million to buy the Lone Star property in St. James and then spent millions more refurbishing and expanding it, now regrets what the Guardian newspaper in London reported him as saying.

Interestingly, The FA and the Independent Regulatory Commission which conducted an extensive investigation into Whelan’s conduct concluded that he wasn’t a racist and that he didn’t set out to harm anyone when he used language that breached the association’s rules. Still, it slapped him with what the Telegraph newspaper described as “one of the most severe FA punishments in recent history”.

The upshot: he can’t even go to his own stadium and can’t be involved in any matters and decisions of a football nature. Whelan was accussed of saying “Jewish people chase money more than anybody else.” Jews have long complained that such words were anti-Semitic. Two prominent figures in English football, David Gold, co-chairman of West Ham United, and Simon Johnson, a former executive of the Premier League and the FA itself, condemned the statements attributed to Whelan, as well as comments allegedly made about Chinese.

Vincent Tan, the Malaysian Chinese owner of the Cardiff City football club, called it insulting. “I think he has insulted the dignity of the Chinese,” Tan said.

Immediately after his worlds caused an uproar, Whelan apologised, describing them as unfortunate but said there were used without malice.

“I apologise profusely to anyone who has taken offence because I would never offend the Jewish community under any circumstances,” Whelan, 77, told the Jewish Telegraph. “I have nothing but respect for them. They’re

hard-working people, they’re honest people. They fight for what they believe in. There’s nobody [who] could knock the Jewish community. For them to accuse me of that, it hurts me a lot. Never have I made an anti-Jewish comment. We have always respected what the Jewish people did, especially [during] the war.

“We’ve always respected how these Jewish [people] stood up to every single thing they were put through, torture, horrendous,” Whelan added. “And I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for the Jewish people.”

The Wigan chairman said he played golf with Jews in Barbados and has many Jewish friends.

“So many Jewish people go to Barbados at Christmas,” he added. “That’s when I go. I see a lot of them in the Lone Star, in restaurants. I play golf with a few of them.”

As for his alleged remarks about Chinese, Whelan traced them to his early growing up years, a time when “we use to call the Chinese chingaling. We weren’t being disrespectful.”

In a statement, the FA indicated the Wigan chairman “accepted the charge of improper conduct” and was fined and warned “to his future conduct”.

The football club issued a statement confirming “the findings of an independent commission following statements made by chairman Dave Whelan in the Guardian newspaper on November 20.”

It pointedly referred to the FA conclusion and said the evidence showed that “Mr Whelan is not a racist. We are equally satisfied that on the evidence before us that

Mr Whelan did not intend to cause any offence by his comments. It is clear that he himself is very upset by the words he used and he moved quickly to apologise, plead guilty and make amends.”

The affair has raised questions about Whelan’s future in football. He had previously said he would resign if the FA said he had used racist language but the controlling body didn’t make such a finding. He can end up passing over some of the control of his football operation to his grandson.

Although Whelan didn’t refer to Blacks, his words resonated with people of colour who vigorously criticise the use of negative and unfair stereotypes which have caused them grief, pain and economic and social opportunity. Blacks in England, Canada, the United States, Cairbbean and Latin America, for example, have been the victims of some of the most vicious and ugly stereotypes.

“…The evidence showed that “Mr Whelan is not a racist. We are equally satisfied that on the evidence before us that Mr Whelan did not intend to cause any offence by his comments.”

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