Andy Gray, free speech, trial by youtube and sexism


I went to see my first live football match in 20 years last week. The last football game I went to was a Liverpool game when Kenny Dalglish was the Reds’ manager and there he was again in the dug out. It was a strange feeling as I had changed a lot since my last game. But had the game changed?

With the controversy over Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ off air comments in front of a camera crew with the tape running (!) making it on to youtube football seems to be changing quite quickly. Its a reminder that we expect integrity even in the world of football. This seems quite a change when compared to President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky – an abuse of power and surely inappropriate behavior that seemed to have no real impact on his job. Andy Gray was rightly disciplined for derogatory remarks against women and for lewd behavior towards a junior female colleague. The clean up and clamp down against racist comments and now sexism is very commendable in my eyes.

The trial by Youtube is a difficult dilemma though. Rather than leaking the evidence to the world – could the whistle-blower have used the due process of a complaints procedure and allowed the culprits the right to reply? The other side of the story is that this was a huge story and has helpfully raised the issue of sexism into the public discourse. Gray and Keys both seem apologetic now, and we do all make gaffs. I for one have definitely put my foot in my mouth at least twice… today alone! We do need a spirit of grace and forgiveness in all areas of life so maybe the punishment should have been suspension with a probation period rather than an outright sacking? I am torn here, because I like the fact that the sacking is a very clear signal that this kind of abusive language is unacceptable.

The dignity of all human beings made in the image of God is the underpinning of biblical anthropology. Whatever your views on the role of women in the church there is no place for derogatory or demeaning language, it’s time for the church to speak up on this issue. I guess many are fearful that speaking out on this issue will mean issues such as women bishops and for some women leaders will be raised and that would leave us in the uncomfortable position of trying to reconcile the Bible’s clear teaching on equality with differences some churches have in roles and authority. It is worth reflecting on how radical the statement in Galatians is when it states:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

The ethnic, class and gender distinctions that used to control someone’s value in society have been nullified by the death and resurrection of Jesus. The church is to be the showcase of the new humanity that refuses to let sexism, racism or “classism” shape our common life, but is instead ruled by the love for one another that transcends these social barriers.

These are my immediate musings on events, what do you make of it all?

Steven Gerrard, the Pub Brawl, Phil Collins and Another Day in Paradise?

My favourite player had a magnificent game on Sunday – he ruled the park thanks to Rafa Benitez finally building his whole team formation around his star player. With Gerard on form like this you don’t need a striker (even of Torres’ quality). But as my mother always used to quote me from the Bible: “pride comes before a fall.” Maybe pumped up from his amazing individual performance against Newcastle (5-1 was the final score) maybe with the opposition fans cheers(!) still ringing in his ears Gerard went home to Southport. Now Southport is a really beautiful place and it’s limited night club scene still attracts the many celebrities that live near to the golf courses of this exclusive northern town. So in comes Gerard and apparently he asks the DJ to play some Phil Collins. It all ended badly with an alleged bar brawl and the boy wonder ending up in police custody. He has now been charged with assault and affray.

Now how the best midfielder in the world can have such a honed set of skills for the pitch and yet be so lacking in night club etiquette is a mystery to me. I am trying to think of factors that may explain Gerard’s choice of artitst:

1. He may have wanted to do a impression of the Cadbury’s gorilla advert featuring Phil Collin’s classic “in the air tonight.” This would have been funny, culturally relevant and would definitely have been an extenuating circumstance.

2. He may have wanted to make a comment about the way that footballers live in luxury and there are so many homeless and hungry people in the world and have requested Another day in paradise. Another worthy extenuating circumstance.

3. Gerard may have bought his son a Disney DVD for Christmas and wanted to dedicate a song to him. Now even though it had a terrible premise for a film “the story of a boy who became a bear to become a man,” Brother Bear did have a great kids song in it penned by old Phil Collins: “On my Way.”

I am open to other suggestions from you ,dear reader. It’s been a while since I have been in a nightclub but let me know if you think I am on the right track. If this really did take place Steven, I am sorry , I guess we all make mistakes, there is someone who can help us whatever messes we get ourselves into…

Here is my go to part of the Bible when things get really tough:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. ” Psalm 41:1-3

I love the idea of the absolute constancy of God in the face of seizmic shifts in our circumstances. I know I started this post in quite a light hearted manner, but I was reading today that if he is found guilty Gerrard could face up to 5 years in prison. Assault is definitely no laughing matter either. This whole episode reminds me of the fragility of our lives – it doesn’t take much for the dark side of our human nature to come out. Gerrard’s masterclass on the pitch, his usual footballing generousity and self control may have been lost under the influence of alcohol, some mates egging him on or a lost temper when someone didn’t give him the respect he wanted. I guess there but for the grace of God go all of us. But even when the bottoms seems to fall out of our world, when it feels like we could lose everything that is dear to us – the God of the Bible promises that he can be the solid ground we can cling to if we ask his forgiveness.

Stevie G – I hope you know this kind of solid ground in your life at the moment.