Brighton has one of the biggest Jewish communities outside the big cities and the 1901 club where I sit has many Jewish supporters. So we have been discussing Dave Whelan’s much publicised comments. My initial reaction was that they were highly offensive. Racial stereotyping was a feature of Nazi dogma and policy. They deliberately stripped Jewish people of all decency to conform with their view that they are a dirty smelly underclass. Of course Dave Whelan has not gone nearly as far. Races and religions do have characteristics and Jewish people have over their years out punched beyond their weight in commerce. It’s difficult to be precise on what he actually said and one wonders if it was recorded. The interviewer David Conn is Jewish and well known as a forensic journalist who is strong on the financial side of football.
Dave Whelan’s defence reflects an old man that does not understand current racial attitudes. I am not sure he knows what a racist is. He asserts that he does business with Jewish people – it would be hard for him not to – and he has many Jewish friends he would never insult, though he has. A person who has friends in many diverse groups can be a racist or make racist remarks. I have even met in my life time the odd Jewish anti-semite and, many who believed Enoch Powell’s comments to be justifiable. Now in mounting his defence he has made matters worse. I happened to speak to my brother, a devout and observational Jew on the subject. It was on what would be our late mother’s birthday. She lost her mother, father and brother in the Holocaust in 1941 when she was 16. My brother spoke movingly at her gravestone of her family and the tablet for them we laid on her tombstone. Until then they were denied even the basics of a grave and memorial. However, my mother like that generation got on with life, never spoke of her childhood and led a full and successful life. She never took an anti depressant, never saw a counsellor. I suspect she would regard herself above such a silly remark and my brother was too. He said PC and gone too far. I recall a previous conversation when he could not criticise Spurs fans for their Yiddo chant.
I was too young to see Dave Whelan play. I know a broken leg ended his career. I admire that he came from a football generation still on the minimum wage who didn’t have the huge incomes of the modern player to start business he did -a very successful one JJ Sports. He has done much for Wigan football club and town and had had good relationships with many managers. Sadly though his understanding of racial attitude reflects the mores of the sixties northern chairmen like Bob Lord of Burnley who was openly anti semitic . He really needs a crash course in racial awareness and a better PR company.