No one has been specific about what Roy Hodgson said at half-time in the England-Poland game, but I think we can safely say this: it quite simply wasn’t racist.
Clearly, what Mr Hodgson said was a reference to a film which involves, literally, an astronaut and a monkey. In the film, the monkey is the one with all the intelligence and all the ability. Comparing a player to the monkey, therefore, is a compliment – as the player himself has said. It has absolutely nothing to do with race.
The fact that it is a story at all in fact shows that we are not tackling racism, but rather pretending it doesn’t exist. It is alarming because, far from being civilised enough to kick racism out of football (and, more importantly, society), we haven’t even developed far enough to understand it. If we cannot distinguish between comments which are racist and comments which aren’t, how can we tackle it?
Worse still, the “faux outrage” around Hodgson merely means that real incidents of racism will be missed. People will begin to be cynical about the whole thing, and it will all become “The Girl Who Cried Wolf”.
Racism remains a serious problem in football (in fact, in society – football merely reflects that). We will only tackle it and kick it out once we actually understand what is racist and what isn’t. What Roy Hodgson said wasn’t.