Oh captain, my captain.
As the roving sports reporter for EVB I watch quite a lot of sports, each time marvelling at the skill, stamina and determination athletes possess to become top of their game.
I'm a completely mad Newcastle United fan, for my sins, but football has started leaving a sour taste in my mouth. The behaviour of some of the richest young men in the UK has made me wonder what kind of message is being given out to youngsters who idolise the players that pull on the shirt of their team.
The new season has just started. Newcastle didn't play until the Sunday afternoon and so the Saturday found me following action from all around the country from the premier league to local games. I was amused that local rivals Sunderland were losing at Leicester City, and their captain had been substituted off. Then I heard who had been given the captain's armband. Adam Johnson.
For those who don't know Adam Johnson is a local born lad, who has seen himself make a decent career in football. He has also been charged with sexually assaulting a child of 15, and also grooming her. His trial is scheduled for early 2016.
The captain's armband in football is more than just an elasticated band that shows who is considered a senior player. This armband is there to show who epitomises the club, their representative, the man who embodies what the club stands for. As a football fan you want a player to be captain to lead by example, to show what is expected and to be the personification of what your club represents.
Does Adam Johnson fit that mould? I've had the "innocent until proven guilty" shouts already. And legally, yes he is. But this man has been investigated by police on the complaint that he has committed child abuse, that he groomed a young girl so he could have sex with her. The CPS have found that sufficient evidence exists for the case to go to trial.
So why in the world would you want to give the captain's armband to a man accused of such heinous crimes? The message that Sunderland Football Club is sending out is that they will stand by their player despite him being accused of an horrific crime, and him being charged. They are saying that the word of the victim means nothing. That they will support a man who has used his position as a footballer to gain access to a child and now allegations of sexual abuse are rife, and Sunderland Football Club do not see that as a problem.
This isn't local rivalry at play for me here. I would be appalled if my club captain was facing such charges, and I would call for him to be suspended, never mind given an ambassadorial role at the club.
Rape and abuse victims are habitually called liars, and here we have a football club that echoes that sentiment. The child (in this case) shouldn't be believed, because this player could be useful in keeping the club in the big time. Oh and to rub further salt into the wound the club will give the accused the captaincy. So you see it's no good reporting rape and abuse because no-one will believe you.
I know that Adam Johnson could be innocent. I feel nauseated when I hear fellow fans singing songs about Johnson being a paedophile. I don't see the humour in the situation. However Johnson could also be guilty and Sunderland Football Club care so little about their female fans, and a child in this case, that they are prepared to have Johnson publicly lead their team.
It's time these footballers were treat with the contempt they deserve. It's not amusing when a footballer sleeps with his team-mate's wife, it's not impressive when a bunch of footballers go out and get drunk and use young women as their sexual plaything, and it's damn well not right that footballers feel they can get away with rape or child abuse because they kick a ball for a living.Download this post as PDF? Click here