David Cameron's entrance into the debate over the use of the word 'yid' by Tottenham Hotspur supporters has only served to push those with extreme views either way but Spurs should leave the Y-word behind them, argues Alex Lawson
Picture the scene. You’re a Spurs supporter with your eight-year-old taking them to White Hart Lane for the first time. During the match the home supporters begin chanting ‘Yid Army’ or another use of the Y-word. Your child, who knows nothing of World War Two, asks you what that means.
You then explain it’s a derogatory term for Jewish people, the traditional foundation of the team’s support, used ironically in response to abuse from rival supporters hissing to emulate the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Hardly the pleasant induction to live football anyone would want.
At Cardiff City Stadium yesterday many of the Spurs fans made their opinions clear with renditions of “we’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing what we want”, and repeated chants of “Yid Army” throughout the game.
The debate over the use of the Y-word in the last week has split opinion. The Football Association warned Spurs fans that those found chanting the word could be prosecuted; Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that Spurs fans have the right to describe themselves as Yids arguing that “you have to be motivated by hate to be prosecuted”, while Jewish comedian and The Y-Word filmmaker David Baddiel – a production released by Kick It Out in 2011 – argued the use of the word has clouded the simple fact it is a racist term.
Cameron’s argument is an odd one. If he acknowledges that Yid is a hate word then asking the FA and police to decide the nuance in which the word has been used makes little sense. The simple fact is, if a racist term is being used in a ground, it is not acceptable.
The obvious comparison is the use of the N-word. The censorship of the most controversial word in the English language has been a long running debate, notably exacerbated by its frequent use by black musicians with the defence that it can’t be racist if used by a black person.
However, the proliferation of a racist term, whether it refers to a black, Asian or Jewish person, can never be a good thing.
Spurs traditionally began using the term to defend themselves against the use of the word against them. Other London clubs also receive anti-semitic chants, as do Dutch giants Ajax.
Respected Society of Black Lawyers member David Neita argues that Spurs fans suggestion they are reclaiming a word originally used to taunt them is “an insult to anybody’s intelligence”. He argues that, as anti-semitism is highlighted and prosecuted in the modern age, the continued use of the word is not acceptable.
Moreover, Baddiel highlights the fact that less than five per cent of Tottenham fans are estimated to be Jewish. As such, the siege mentality defence of a persecuted minority does not stand up.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust are to poll members on whether they should continue to use the word. A negative result would represent a victory for common sense and a severance of ties to an unsavoury past.