TV football pundit quits after racist slur22 April 2004

Ron Atkinson, a legendary football pundit on the UK’s ITV channel, has quit his job after making a racist slur live on air. The incident occurred after the Monaco – Chelsea Champions League game on Tuesday 20 April 2004. His comments were directed at Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly, whom Atkinson referred to as a “f*****g lazy thick n****r”. His remarks, in a conversation with fellow presenter Clive Tyldesley, were not broadcast in the UK, but were heard on several Middle Eastern channels where the live feed was still operating. ITV Sport learnt of the slur after receiving several complaints from around the Middle East.

Atkinson is said to be “Devastated and very sorry” for any offence caused and has since resigned from his post at ITV. His weekly column in UK newspaper The Guardian has also been terminated by “Mutual agreement”.

Track record
Previously in his managerial career at Manchester United and Aston Villa, Ron had built a superb track record of bringing through some of the most pioneering black players of the past 30 years. In particular, Atkinson managed the West Bromwich Albion team during the 70’s which saw Brendan Batson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham dazzle the crowd week after week, paving the way for more recent black players.

Kick It Out
Piara Powar, of FARE partner Kick It Out, condemned Atkinson's comments and said he was not surprised the commentator had resigned.

He said: “I think it is always disappointing to hear someone of his stature make the type of comment that he has. I have to say, regardless of his record, that sort of terminology is just simply out of bounds.”

“We are not interested in running a political correctness campaign, but there are certain things in 2004 which should not be uttered. The term 'nigger' is one of the most offensive terms you can use to describe a black person, so I don't see what choice he has other than to resign.”

“There is no excuse for what he called Desailly. Even if the player had a bad game he should not be criticised on the basis of his skin colour.”