Don Sterling Malky Mackay

Mackay and Sterling: What We Didn't Learn

8:51 PMAleks Vee

Photo: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill,File
by Aleks V

There are few among the most avid followers of the beautiful game who have yet to hear of the allegations against former Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay, and fewer still who weren't shocked that this wasn't just some tabloid rumor or malicious framing from Cardiff's infamous owner Vincent Tan. Mackay admitted being responsible for three of the many racist and sexist texts lifted from somebody's phone in Tan's investigation of Mackay and Cardiff's former head of recruitment Iain Moody. The texts were published right before Mackay was close to being appointed manager at Crystal Palace. He issued an apology, calling the messages "completely unacceptable and inappropriate". But an apology won't be enough to restore his reputation - or in the long run, his career.

The Mackay scandal isn't unique in the world of sports, nor is it the type of problem that will go away anytime soon. Earlier this year, NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave Clippers owner Don Sterling a lifetime ban following the release of recordings of a private conversation between him and his girlfriend in which he made racist remarks. He was forced to sell the team after a court ruled "he cannot block the sale of the team by his wife to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer". Incidentally, the Sterling audio recordings were released by TMZ, while the allegations in the Mackay scandal were published in some of Britain's most popular tabloids. It's safe to say the mass media have a reputation for wrecking reputations.

Here's another thing the media have a reputation for: ignoring the obvious. These sort of incidents bring up a series of ethical questions, none of which are raised by the media or answered by the gossiping masses:

Why do we hold wealthy individuals liable for their actions, yet never hold the more-important (and more-respected) media accountable for publishing gossip (and I'm not talking about TMZ)?

Why, for instance, are we willing to so harshly condemn these individuals while remaining ever so silent about far more heinous crimes?

And the big one:
Is it really fair to end someone's entire career over a series of private texts or phone conversations, regardless of how offensive they are? I've heard things far worse than both the Mackay and Sterling cases combined, but alas, those remarks were made by commoners. In our world, those with power are held accountable for the same actions that those without simply aren't.

Our mass media environment deals with social issues like a bad doctor. Too much attention is given to the symptoms, and not enough to the causes. The only way to treat an illness - in this case, a social one - is to determine the root of the problem and work on minimizing it. I say minimizing, because removing all discrimination from any society is virtually impossible. It's because we're humans. There's a nature/nurture element to this as well, but that's treading into philosophical territory.

Today's sports industry is incredibly diverse in terms of race and ethnicity (though not always in terms of gender). Often the problem lies not in the exclusion of any kind of person, but rather in the treatment of that person within the industry. How we treat others depends on many factors that stem from our individual experiences, which are themselves shaped by one's race, class, gender, etc. While it is impossible for us to all have the same experiences, there is much that we can do to draw more attention to what we have in common while celebrating individuality. Every action, even one seemingly confined to one's own neighborhood, adds up to form our present world.

What we're doing now is the equivalent of waving fingers at a bad child. It won't change anyone, and it certainly won't prevent future revelations of offensive behavior that will send many a career down the drain. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the mass media want. They'd love to delay the resolutions of as many issues as possible - at any cost. That, my friends, is the way of business. But it doesn't have to be. As far as working for the greater good is concerned, the doors are always open - I'm lookin' at you, tabloids.

The media would do well to turn their attention to more pressing matters, matters that do indeed concern discrimination and inequality, like the wage gap within Premier Leagues, between men's and women's leagues, and between top-tier players and persons of arguably more significant professions. Another thing that doesn't generate as much discussion as it should is gender inequality in football's governing bodies (FIFA, UEFA, CONCACAF, etc.) and within football clubs. Every issue needs to be dealt with from its core, and not from its surface. We can only expect to see significant improvements when we stop being so concerned with the facade and start fixing up the foundation.

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