For Index on Censorship, Padraig Reidy argues the following:
“Insisting the heavyweight be silenced accomplishes nothing. It’s unfair to force a sportsperson into the position of role model and punishing Tyson Fury for his views won’t improve boxing or the lives of LGBT people.”
Padraig is right that there is no need to silence him. But there is also no need to award him ‘Sports Personality of the Year‘ either.
His boxing title is his fair and just reward for his efforts. and it certainly would be wrong to strip him of that title – a title which ought to be gained only by the objective fact of being able to knock the other man out. If he is currently the world’s greatest heavyweight boxer, then that is an objective fact unaltered by his political opinions and assorted brain-farts.
However, “personality” awards are an additional accolade which take into account other factors including, unsurprisingly, being a good role model. As the title suggests, it is a measure of personality as well as sportsmanship. Reidy’s suggestion that expecting the boxer to tone down his homophobia is akin to sanitising Mohammed Ali of his civil rights statements and turning him into an ‘acceptable-to-whites’ Sydney Poitier in ‘Guess Who;s Coming To Dinner’ is, frankly, crass.
I would also question the assertion that denying him the SPotY accolade won’t improve the lives of LGBT people. It will, for the same reason putting racists beyond the pale improves the lives of black people. It signals that mainstream society cares about these issues. That’s a small, but significant, improvement.
Free speech is important to protect, but it is equally important that people understand that shooting one’s mouth off sometimes has consequences – like not winning a ‘personality’ award.
Well, it seems the BBC are taking some steps against speech they don’t approve of. According to Pink News, they’ve suspended a gay news presenter who expressed his displeasure on Facebook saying the BBC “is hurting me and other gay people by celebrating someone who considers me no better than a paedophile”. Presenter Andy West has been suspended from his BBC job “pending investigation” over his comments. Perhaps Index on Censorship will defend his right to express a view too.