I sent Manchester United an email a month ago about Ron Atkinson's appearances on MUTV. They've just replied.
From: Jack McInroy
Sent: 23 April 2013 13:28
Subject: Ron Atkinson on MUTV
Yesterday was a glorious one Manchester United Football Club. The club clinched a record 20th title, but I can’t help feeling that for anyone watching MUTV's coverage the day was tarnished by the presence of Ron Atkinson. I am curious why Manchester United Football Club/MUTV think it is in any way acceptable to hire Atkinson as a pundit.
Ron Atkinson was fired from ITV in 2004 when he referred to Marcel Desailly as a 'f**king lazy nigger'. I'm sure this is not news to you.
Plenty of people live with a degree of prejudice, much of which is deeply ingrained by their upbringing and living in a society where for many years racist attitudes and language were accepted, even encouraged.
Ron Atkinson said this in 2004, a time when the derogatory use of the word 'nigger' had been universally accepted as offensive and socially unacceptable for decades.
Atkinson's outburst shows that he believes that black people are inherently lazy and unintelligent and not worthy of anything other than offensive language. It is not unusual for people to have racist thoughts, express racism in the privacy of their own home and espouse ignorant casual racism, but in this case, a man in the presence of others in the workplace, called someone the most hate-loaded word in the English language. Not only that, but he thought of a sentence and two adjectives to put in front of it before saying it, showing it was not a slip of the tongue. There can be no doubt it's a word he uses regularly when the microphones are off.
Atkinson apologised, in the process suggesting he was some kind of civil rights pioneer for picking non-white players to for his teams. He said the incident was 'an aberration', and that he isn't a racist man, but the apology cannot be accepted until he admits that the opposite is true - he is a racist man. Until he is openly ashamed of what he is (or was) as well as what he said and there is evidence he is a reformed character, he must not be forgiven.
Since the incident he has been broadcast and/or employed by Sky, William Hill, Channel Four, Swindon Town FC and most unsettling of all, the BBC. The fact that these companies have chosen to hire Atkinson after his vile statement is no excuse for Manchester United to follow suit.
What type of message do you think this sends out about Manchester United and MUTV’s attitude towards racism? I'll tell you - it says that club allegiances and viewing figures are more important to Manchester United than the feelings, rights and progress of ethnic minorities.
What would someone have to say to be vetoed from presenting on MUTV?
"F**king lazy nigger". If you are a decent human being reading those words will give you a feeling of unease deep in your stomach. Those are the ones he consciously uttered. Is this the type of person you're happy to have on the club's payroll?
Sent: 20 May 2013 10:51
To: Jack McInroy
Subject: RE: Ron Atkinson on MUTV
Dear Mr McInroy
Thank you very much for your email. We take our viewers’ opinions very seriously.
We currently use Ron Atkinson as a studio guest when he is relevant and as the last Manager here before Sir Alex, and as an experienced television pundit, we consider him a valid option for our programming.
No-one would ever condone what he did but equally we don’t think any reasonable person would condemn him to a life in exile for a mistake for which he has expressed sincere regret and that he has paid for many years.
Head of Programmes, MUTV