James McClean this week gave us another insight to the racist abuse he receives on a daily basis.
The Stoke midfielder from the Creggan estate in Derry, Ireland is no stranger to the onslaught of abuse he has received with the media gaslighting him at any chance for an number of years until finally a few footballers spoke out in his defence.
For three years McClean was a first team starter for Derry before being signed by Sunderland in 2011. Purely on the basis of where McClean hailed from he already had fallen to the disfavour of a small number of fans, however it wasn’t until November that McClean was being portrayed as public enemy number one.
In November 2011 McClean had refused to wear a poppy stations his reason for the decision as the poppy is used as a symbol commemorating all of Britain’s wars, which included the one being fought right on his doorstep. Being from Derry McClean grew up in a city that had been deeply devastated by the hands of the British Government and for him this meant not just not just commemorating those who fought in the World Wars but those who took part in massacres such as Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday.
His decision was respected by his manager and his teammates however neither the elements of the far right on the terraces or the media would hold back on their anti Irish racIsm. McClean and his wife would receive daily death threats and the media would only report headlines such as “Stokes Shame” and “if you don’t like it get out”. McCleans time at Sunderland came came to a boiling point when after a match someone spat at him and his wife who was pregnant at the time.
Despite the gun threats, being sent bullets in the post and being told to leave England McCleans media attention focused on how his actions somehow validated the feelings of those who were abusing McClean.
McClean once again condemned the media in the contrast as to how he was being portrayed.
In comparison with Nemanja Vidic who had also chosen not to wear a poppy, where his reasoning at the time seemed to have more validation than that of McCleans due to the direct conflict with Ireland.
However what was never being reported is how much McClean was supporting his own community back in Derry. Amongst the media storms McClean would be donating to food banks, supporting local community groups and helping people who were in need. McClean redistributed a considerable amount of wealth back into the community and used his connections in the footballing world to help support local charitable football teams in the area.
Yesterday McClean used social media to once again highlight the anti Irish hatred he still receives after living in England for 9 years. At one point McClean states how he was once threatened with someone bringing a gun to a game and his family recounting that they watched the match in fear. Another point makes reference to the daily remarks he gets whilst out in public where people would tell him to “get the fuck out of England”. Most shocking of all he included a photo of a private message where someone has threatened to burn down his house with him, his wife and his three young children in it.
Whilst in recent years there has been a smaller understanding and support fo McCleans poppy stance, once again there are contrasts in the lack of support and guidance he has received especially during a time when standing against racism in football is broadcasted more than ever.
Being one of the most abused players in the Premier League McClean continues to preform both on and off the pitch, showing tremendous generosity and helping his community. He has highlighted his abuse continuously and to no avail, yet he is a footballer who is is at the forefront of media attention, with allot of his personal life under constant scrutiny by both the public and media.
With this scrutiny we see the onslaught of abuse on social media in a continuous vicious cycle leaving him and his family living under constant threat.
By the time McCleans career is over in England his reputation will forever be tarnished by the abuse he has received alongside slanderous headlines and not stories of one of the better footballers out there who gave back to their community.