National Forum

Should The Rebel Flag Be Banned At Cork Matches?

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Replying To KingdomBoy1:  "Sound man whammo, I was just trying to gauge what was or wasn't acceptable to people from a left persuadion , I often wonder who gives these flags and symbols and words such power the people who use them or the people who take offence from them.

I honestly don't believe the Cork fans who use the confederate flag are trying to be racist, they just like the fact that's its a rebel flag from the deep south."
I completely agree with you in that the people who bring these flags are not pro slavery.

I just think when it comes to something like slavery I want to err on the side of it not being acceptable.

I completely agree that these sorts of issues are not black and white.

That's why I emphasise the importance of the conversation.

I am ok expert on these issues, how could anyone be without devoting their life to the endeavour.

I'm just try to make the best decisions based on myself based on the information I have at hand. I hope I listen to others and use information they provide to inform my own views. I accept none of these issues are clear cut.
Mi don't accept the assertion that the confederate flag has lost significance since the end of the US civil war. I feel that those in Southern states defending the use of the flag are giving weak arguments for its continued use. In Ireland in our place in liberal western , Anglo speaking society the argument that we don't know the connotations of the flag doesn't wash anymore. I would want my association to err on the side of not condoning a symbol of slavery.

I completely accept with all information being available that could be the wrong call but I'm weighting the risk of being wrong on one side, condoning slavery, to the risk of banning the flag, Cork fans have 1 less flag to use to support their team, and deciding the risk not to ban is not worth it.

Whammo86 (Antrim) - Posts: 3015 - 13/06/2020 23:02:29    2280741

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Strikes me as a bit irrelevant talking about Flags and changing names of clubs and no one talking about tackling racism in the game itself, Lee Chin, Sean Og Halpin, Jason Sherlock & Boidu Sayeh and many others past and present have all spoken of their experiences of racism at the top level of the game, I can only imagine what it's like at club and for youngsters. You look at how multicultural Ireland has become and communities with huge diversity %, yet this isn't reflected in representation in GAA the way it is in other sports.

Clearly there is a problem, in respecting and accommodating diversity in the GAA then the token efforts we see.

Loads who seem comfortable with fans waving confederate flags in front of BAME players and or fans might not think we have a problem though and say it's just political correctness gone mad, yet the lack of penetration of the GAA in diverse communities bar the odd player who battles through racism, is very tellingly in comparison to other sports. ;)

TheUsername (Dublin) - Posts: 3388 - 13/06/2020 23:29:31    2280744

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Replying To TheUsername:  "Strikes me as a bit irrelevant talking about Flags and changing names of clubs and no one talking about tackling racism in the game itself, Lee Chin, Sean Og Halpin, Jason Sherlock & Boidu Sayeh and many others past and present have all spoken of their experiences of racism at the top level of the game, I can only imagine what it's like at club and for youngsters. You look at how multicultural Ireland has become and communities with huge diversity %, yet this isn't reflected in representation in GAA the way it is in other sports.

Clearly there is a problem, in respecting and accommodating diversity in the GAA then the token efforts we see.

Loads who seem comfortable with fans waving confederate flags in front of BAME players and or fans might not think we have a problem though and say it's just political correctness gone mad, yet the lack of penetration of the GAA in diverse communities bar the odd player who battles through racism, is very tellingly in comparison to other sports. ;)"
I very much agree

Whammo86 (Antrim) - Posts: 3015 - 14/06/2020 00:37:20    2280749

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Replying To TheUsername:  "Strikes me as a bit irrelevant talking about Flags and changing names of clubs and no one talking about tackling racism in the game itself, Lee Chin, Sean Og Halpin, Jason Sherlock & Boidu Sayeh and many others past and present have all spoken of their experiences of racism at the top level of the game, I can only imagine what it's like at club and for youngsters. You look at how multicultural Ireland has become and communities with huge diversity %, yet this isn't reflected in representation in GAA the way it is in other sports.

Clearly there is a problem, in respecting and accommodating diversity in the GAA then the token efforts we see.

Loads who seem comfortable with fans waving confederate flags in front of BAME players and or fans might not think we have a problem though and say it's just political correctness gone mad, yet the lack of penetration of the GAA in diverse communities bar the odd player who battles through racism, is very tellingly in comparison to other sports. ;)"
Spot on Username. Easier to talk to a radio station about banning flags for games when there are no games rather than do something about racism here. A Cork colleague told me that the Cork County board have been trying to ban the confederate flag at games since the '90s, can someone coomment on that please? Forget about tackling racism, instead talk about promoting inclusivism. Just my opinion from bringing my daughter to Cúl camps the last few years. Hopefully they willl go ahead this year and the GAA cash in on massive goodwill and publicity if they do. Most take place at the bigger clubs, kids coming from different areas, living closer to the smaller clubs nearby. These clubs should send reps to talk to the kids and their parents, regardless of nationality,tell them the training times, event times, welcome them into their club. Maybe it happens all the time but I haven't seen it. Kids are kids, they don't seem as bothered as adults about a person's skin colour, nationaliity or religion. And it would get parents interarcting too. Plus we'll find the camogie, hurling and football stars of the future.

GreenandRed (Mayo) - Posts: 5713 - 14/06/2020 03:50:51    2280751

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Replying To Whammo86:  "I'll be honest I don't really think there's a good need for those flags in GAA grounds either.

The Israeli flag though is a very contentious issue though.

I myself personally would find what is perpetuated by the Israeli government to the Palestinian people to be as close to apartheid as you can get. I do think though that the pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionism movements have plenty of people who are not just anti-Zionists but also anti-semites. I can understand why someone of a Jewish background would be concerned if there were to be a ban on the Israeli flag. You're starting to get into really some difficult questions there that I'll be honest I don't have the answers to.

The confederate flag is more clear cut in my mind.

I agree with Htaem that depending on context flags and symbols can have different meaning.

Where I would disagree is that when it comes to the topic of slavery it is so abhorrent that it shouldn't be taken complacently. The equivalence of the confederate flag at Cork games and Swastikas in Eastern cultures. For a start the history of the use of the Swastika predates that of its adoption by the Nazis."
Need to be careful and understand the differences in the middle east, The Flag of Israel, is just that, the flag of a Nation called Israel. Do not confuse Zionism with being an Israeli, in the same way not all Jewish people are from Israel and not all Israeli's are not Jewish. The middle east is a complex place and nothing is straightforward. A location messed up by colonial powers and to this day still used as a playground by opposing factions globally.
However the reality is that no Israeli I know would ever want their flag flown at a GAA game, they would see it as being disrespectful to their flag and I agree. Its their Nations flag in the same way ours is ours - although we seem to allow the desecration of our flag far more than any other nation - all you have to do is look at an international soccer game to see that. Not a word from all the firebrand nationalists about it, who claim that men died for the flag which they did but did they did for a flag that has the name of a "local pub on tour" on it.
I guess thats perhaps part of the problem, how can some people understand what the confederate flag means to others when they see how much respect we pay to our own flag.

zinny (Wexford) - Posts: 795 - 14/06/2020 05:22:09    2280752

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The attitudes expressed on here really don't surprise me in the slightest. Growing up in Ireland when I did, racism in my mind didn't exist, as everyone was white and Irish. What did it matter if we told jokes that denigrated other races or had rhymes that went "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo catch the N* by the toe" - sure there were no black people around so what harm did it do? What it did was perpetrate in society the complete lack of understanding of what racism actually was and the effects that this had on the people around the world who were impacted by it.
These attitudes still exist in Ireland today, casual racism is very much alive and well in Ireland. Even on this site I called out people for their attempts to stereotype Chinese people in relation to COVID as in they wanted to give the impression that the Chinese people deal with pandemics all the time, one posted gave the educated opinion that all 4.6billion people in Asia wear facemasks because their cities are dirty and their food standards terrible. Essentially what is happening is that we create negative stereotypes or prejudices on the basis or race, color or ethnicity. People don't intend to cause offence or harm and the people who say or do these things may not believe in the superiority of the white person over others but what they do not realize is that the implications are very much the same on the people who are at the receiving end. A lot of us will have personally had witness to a relative who believes that they are not racist and believes everyone should be treated equal but if they were to be treated by colored doctor would ask to see a "proper" one.
Unfortunately people seem to think that having a racist opinion is a god given right and there is not right and wrong. That anti racist movements are driven by the far left - quite what far left is and what it has to do with having an understanding of basic human rights is beyond me. Funny how my kids would most likely describe me as being right of center on a lot of economic issues but at the same time being completely anti-racist, why ones opinion on one issue should determine what I should feel on another is beyond me.
The confederate flag issue is black and white - its wrong plain and simple. I have no insight into the mind of any Cork supporter who ever carried it and if they knew the history or not and what the flag represented but lets assume they didn't. They did not intend to cause any offence and they could argue that there are no African Americans in Cork so how could I offend them? However even if that was true think of it this way, by flying the flag you are legitimizing a regime that believed that the white man was superior to all others, believed vehemently in slavery who they treated worse than dogs. The fact that you do not intend to do this is no defense.
The John Mitchel issue is interesting in that all these clubs were names long before anyone knew what he did once he was in the USA. There is no way that anyone who named the club could have even though that an Irish person would ever inflict on another human being what had been inflected on Irish people by the British. However it should be incumbent on all of these clubs to look at the naming of the club and change it, it doesn't change the club just the name, will they suffer on the field as a result of changing the name - no but they will make a statement about what Ireland should be about and help to start putting an end to the concept of casual racism that exist in Ireland today.

zinny (Wexford) - Posts: 795 - 14/06/2020 06:32:40    2280753

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Replying To Whammo86:  "I completely agree with you in that the people who bring these flags are not pro slavery.

I just think when it comes to something like slavery I want to err on the side of it not being acceptable.

I completely agree that these sorts of issues are not black and white.

That's why I emphasise the importance of the conversation.

I am ok expert on these issues, how could anyone be without devoting their life to the endeavour.

I'm just try to make the best decisions based on myself based on the information I have at hand. I hope I listen to others and use information they provide to inform my own views. I accept none of these issues are clear cut.
Mi don't accept the assertion that the confederate flag has lost significance since the end of the US civil war. I feel that those in Southern states defending the use of the flag are giving weak arguments for its continued use. In Ireland in our place in liberal western , Anglo speaking society the argument that we don't know the connotations of the flag doesn't wash anymore. I would want my association to err on the side of not condoning a symbol of slavery.

I completely accept with all information being available that could be the wrong call but I'm weighting the risk of being wrong on one side, condoning slavery, to the risk of banning the flag, Cork fans have 1 less flag to use to support their team, and deciding the risk not to ban is not worth it."
Good post Whammo, I completely understand your view about wanting err on the side of it not being acceptable, even if we don't fully agree on all points.

One of my main concerns is the current wave of far left hysteria that seems hell bent on erasing as many things which 'offend' them as possible. I'd rather see people have as much personal freedom of choice as possible but I think that's gradually coming under threat these days.

For me signs and symbols hold no inherent meaning, their meaning is entirely defined by us and things that are man made can be re-defined. Now that doesn't change what they meant to somebody in the past, but it can change what they mean to somebody in the future.

Anyway we shouldn't be giving so much power to symbols, as comedian George Carlin put it, leave the symbols to the symbol minded :-)

Htaem (Meath) - Posts: 8427 - 14/06/2020 08:31:59    2280755

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Replying To DUALSUPPORT:  "Very well said moc.dna. I understand people dislike or hate for the confederate flag but It's my belief this goes beyond people being offended by flags, looking for statues to be pulled down or censoring jokes on old tv shows, where does the madness stop? It gives elites power to censor and control societies, and whats happening at the moment are left-wing nuts forcing their ideology on people and that could very well turn decent people to support loons on the right wing, That why the left-wing governance of the EU turned the UK public to vote Brexit and why there is a fraud and a charlatan president of the USA."
"Left wing governance of the EU" are you kidding me. Good ould "them immagents took all the jobs we wouldnt do anyway" led to Brexit that and UK government always using the EU as the bad guy and never explaining the benefits like how you never see a "co-funded by the EU" sign like you would here also both the UK and trump feed into a starry nostalgia for a perfect white working class world that never existed.

Censoring and banning stuff happens already which is why we dont have NAZI flags and golliwogs so why cant people ask to add stuff to the list now Im not saying some dont go too far in what they ask for but they are allowed ask

Breezy (Limerick) - Posts: 903 - 14/06/2020 09:07:03    2280756

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Thanks Htaem

By the way I meant to say I'm not an expert.

Whammo86 (Antrim) - Posts: 3015 - 14/06/2020 09:47:28    2280758

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Replying To Trump2020:  "Probably nothing. Some people might be annoyed but that's perpetual."
No. Stewards will confiscate any Confederate flags brought to its grounds.

Cockney_Cat (UK) - Posts: 979 - 14/06/2020 10:08:43    2280759

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Replying To MesAmis:  "Exactly!

Stupid snowflake Federal Government telling good people that they aren't able to own other human beings anymore!

PC gone mad!

Telling people not to fly pro-slavery flags is terrible!"
The battle flag was never the flag official flag of the confederacy but was a flag used during battles during the civil war.
The flag was was associated with Robert E Lee, the most famous general/ figure associated with the south during the war (he personally was against slavery but fought as he felt duty bound to fight for his home state).
In the American south it had different meanings to different people. To some it is a symbol of the huge amount of their ancestors who were killed in the war, to some it is a symbol of oppression/ supremacy and some others like the idea of having a rebel flag against government telling them what to do. Maybe some associate it with country music (or Elvis, some of his posters I saw growing up had the flag).
Like the civil war itself it is complicated (few realise that the federal government did not decree the slaves freedom until 18 months after the war started).
It's only in the last few years that people have objected to its display in America, generally before this people were left to make up their own mind.
Like Cork, Napoli fans in Seire A (and some other soccer fans in different countries) use the flag as they like the general idea of being Southern rebels and it looks good.
Some people just love telling people what to do.

bdbuddah (Meath) - Posts: 694 - 14/06/2020 10:34:40    2280761

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Replying To GreenandRed:  "Spot on Username. Easier to talk to a radio station about banning flags for games when there are no games rather than do something about racism here. A Cork colleague told me that the Cork County board have been trying to ban the confederate flag at games since the '90s, can someone coomment on that please? Forget about tackling racism, instead talk about promoting inclusivism. Just my opinion from bringing my daughter to Cúl camps the last few years. Hopefully they willl go ahead this year and the GAA cash in on massive goodwill and publicity if they do. Most take place at the bigger clubs, kids coming from different areas, living closer to the smaller clubs nearby. These clubs should send reps to talk to the kids and their parents, regardless of nationality,tell them the training times, event times, welcome them into their club. Maybe it happens all the time but I haven't seen it. Kids are kids, they don't seem as bothered as adults about a person's skin colour, nationaliity or religion. And it would get parents interarcting too. Plus we'll find the camogie, hurling and football stars of the future."
Excellent post GreenandRed and i agree wholeheartedly.

I was struck by the experience of Stefan Okunbor, who as we know left what looked like a promising career fro Kerry and moved to the AFL, interestingly Deividas Uosis has also taken that route, i think its possible reading Steffen lived experience that accommodating diversity may have been part of his decision making process. Im not singling out Kerry as im sure this happens up and down the country, id include my own county in that, ive personally confronted people over the years over things shouted from stands particularly to Jayo - i was younger and hot headed then.

I was struck by the effort and lengths Stefans Mum made when he was younger to intergate him into the community, but i could also see as a parent, not wanting your child playing GAA if they came home and shared a racist or prejudiced experience or read Stefan experience. There are problems in the GAA that go way beyond a flag and we and the GAA need to do more to accomadate and stop racisim and prejudice. Tolerance around the flag is symbolic of the underlying issue.

I would ask everyone to read the following account by Stefan Okunbar and ask themselves would they really be comfortable with him playing for Kerry in PUC with opposition fans waiving 1000's of Confederacy flags.

AFL player and former Kerry minor star Stefan Okunbor has opened up on the shocking racism he endured as a young black man living and playing football in Ireland.

Okunbor, who also played for Kerry U20s, admits he has found it difficult to talk to friends and teammates about episodes of racism. But amid the global wave of outrage following the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, he hopes his story will educate people that real change will take more than social media posts.

Born in Moldova, Okunbor moved to Ireland as a three-year-old, with his Nigerian father and Moldovan mother.


He tasted All-Ireland success as a Kerry minor in 2016, before moving to Australia last year, where he is a rising star at the Victoria based Geelong Cats.

But before he left Ireland, Okunbor endured several racist episodes that stunned and hurt him.

"I have been extremely fortunate to grow up as a proud black Irishman, I love Ireland, it is home," he says, stressing that racist episodes have been infrequent.

"On the occasion that they did (occur)…they stuck", he says, "a constant reminder that I was a minority.

"It has always been an uncomfortable topic to converse about with my peers because the majority of them are 'white Irish' and although they would listen and be supportive, they simply could not understand the profound effect that some of the derogative insults that I have received have had on my life."

The incidents happened both "on and off the pitch".

"The first racial incident occurred while working during my gap year pre-college, it was my Kerry minor year.

"It was at the ripe age of 17 that I first questioned people's views on a black man's place in Irish society after being called a "black b*****d by an elderly colleague who later claimed in a meeting with management that it was just 'friendly banter'.

"I have never taken part in this type of racist banter at my expense with anyone and I certainly didn't condone it.

"It made me wonder if this is what being out of the relative safety of secondary school and going into the real world felt like? Is this how all old Irish men act towards blacks?

"A few of my friends may be shocked because I have always shied away from speaking out about any racial incidents I've had. In the past I found it difficult making my colleagues, who respect you, aware of incidents where I have been belittled and made feel miniscule.

"I wouldn't have dared to share it with my teammates on the Kerry minor panel, a place where I and everyone who put the Kerry jersey on was respected for who they were."

Okunbor first donned the jersey of his beloved Na Gaeil club in Tralee as a six-year old. That move marked "an effort by my mother to integrate me into the Irish culture and society, as Gaelic football is extremely family and community orientated".

"I instantly fell in love with the game and have made lifelong friends along the way. Football is engrained in Irish culture and I always felt like I 'did my bit' by playing it".

But two separate incidents of racial abuse on the football pitch in the year prior to moving to Australia "really hit home".

"Whilst taking a shot against 'Team A', which I will not name out of respect, an opposing player began to make monkey noises.

"I couldn't believe it, I didn't want to believe it. Several of my teammates who were nearby and heard him scuffed him up as I steered clear. I didn't want anything to do with it, I just wanted to block it out of my life and hope I didn't have to endure the embarrassment ever again."

The perpetrator ultimately received an eight-week ban.

"For once I felt justice has been served," Okunbor says.

The most recent episode of racial abuse served as a reminder "of the views towards blacks that I was very much willing to forget".

"The third incident was more shocking than anything as I had played with this player on a different team.

"It was a very tense game, but I never anticipated it would get this heated. There was a moment in the game in which bodies were clashing in a ten or so man melee. I engaged with this particular player only for him to turn around and yell something all too familiar, 'what do you think you're doing you black b******d?'

"I was lost for words. All my life I had done nothing but give my all for my club, county, and community and this is the respect I was shown. I could see that other players had heard it, but I didn't know how to react. I stayed calm and reported the incident to the referee, but he didn't send the player off as he hadn't heard the insult.

"I couldn't concentrate for the rest of the game as I questioned the referee's integrity."

Okunbor didn't address the issue after the game, not wanting to face the hearing process that would follow, nor "the embarrassment of the case going public"

"I did not want to feel more marginalised than I already was, so I brushed it under the rug. It has been a chip on my shoulder ever since."

He says his experiences are not unique.

"My black friends share similar experiences, my father has also been a victim, which hurts me to say."

He stresses his experience of Irish life has been mainly positive, but warns that the current Black Lives Matter movement will mean nothing if it just amounts to social media posts.

"If it is seen as a box ticked by jumping on the bandwagon, in fear of being labelled a racist if you don't, it means nothing.

"I'm not painting a whole nation with the same brush, I can't generalise a country due to the ignorance of a few.

"I cannot stress enough how lucky I was to have forged my life in Ireland. Ireland is a beautiful and great place to live and raise a family. I just hope that the incidents I have shared and the realisation that everyone globally is coming to terms with can make people act differently when witnessing any form of racism as it is an issue that can be easily overlooked.

"These are just three incidents from my life that I felt would be most important to address. There are countless deeper ways people's comments could segregate and affect minorities.

"I hope people can come away from reading this with more awareness and understanding about the issues of racism and stomp it out for good".

TheUsername (Dublin) - Posts: 3388 - 14/06/2020 10:39:57    2280762

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Replying To Whammo86:  "I completely agree with you in that the people who bring these flags are not pro slavery.

I just think when it comes to something like slavery I want to err on the side of it not being acceptable.

I completely agree that these sorts of issues are not black and white.

That's why I emphasise the importance of the conversation.

I am ok expert on these issues, how could anyone be without devoting their life to the endeavour.

I'm just try to make the best decisions based on myself based on the information I have at hand. I hope I listen to others and use information they provide to inform my own views. I accept none of these issues are clear cut.
Mi don't accept the assertion that the confederate flag has lost significance since the end of the US civil war. I feel that those in Southern states defending the use of the flag are giving weak arguments for its continued use. In Ireland in our place in liberal western , Anglo speaking society the argument that we don't know the connotations of the flag doesn't wash anymore. I would want my association to err on the side of not condoning a symbol of slavery.

I completely accept with all information being available that could be the wrong call but I'm weighting the risk of being wrong on one side, condoning slavery, to the risk of banning the flag, Cork fans have 1 less flag to use to support their team, and deciding the risk not to ban is not worth it."
That's an excellent post whammo that explains exactly where you stand on the issue and I respect that even though I don't feel the same way myself, now that might make me look racist to some but I'm 100% not.

As for John Mitchell, like a guy from another forum said yesterday how can we judge people from the past with todays standards? They were different times.

We were on here a few weeks ago trying to judge teams from 40 years ago to teams of today and that was hard enough.

KingdomBoy1 (Kerry) - Posts: 10999 - 14/06/2020 11:07:46    2280763

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Replying To zinny:  "Need to be careful and understand the differences in the middle east, The Flag of Israel, is just that, the flag of a Nation called Israel. Do not confuse Zionism with being an Israeli, in the same way not all Jewish people are from Israel and not all Israeli's are not Jewish. The middle east is a complex place and nothing is straightforward. A location messed up by colonial powers and to this day still used as a playground by opposing factions globally.
However the reality is that no Israeli I know would ever want their flag flown at a GAA game, they would see it as being disrespectful to their flag and I agree. Its their Nations flag in the same way ours is ours - although we seem to allow the desecration of our flag far more than any other nation - all you have to do is look at an international soccer game to see that. Not a word from all the firebrand nationalists about it, who claim that men died for the flag which they did but did they did for a flag that has the name of a "local pub on tour" on it.
I guess thats perhaps part of the problem, how can some people understand what the confederate flag means to others when they see how much respect we pay to our own flag."
Yes I understand all that.

Israel itself though is an ethnostate that only exists because of Zionism and who's government is actively participating in a modern day apartheid, as such the Israeli is definitely a contentious symbol.

But as I say and you have also re-emphasised, the situation is easily misunderstood and there are definitely anti-semites who use a just cause as cover for their own bigotry.

Distinctions have to be made between Jewish people and Israelis, pro-Zionists and anti-Zionists. The Israeli government and the Israeli people, still I stand by my belief that the flag of an apartheid state is a problematic symbol to be flown at GAA. I do think it's less clear cut than the confederate flag.

Whammo86 (Antrim) - Posts: 3015 - 14/06/2020 11:26:20    2280764

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Replying To Whammo86:  "Thanks Htaem

By the way I meant to say I'm not an expert."
No worries Whammo, I'm no expert either, I doubt there's many experts on this topic here but it's nice to have the discussion.

Htaem (Meath) - Posts: 8427 - 14/06/2020 11:31:02    2280765

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Replying To TheUsername:  "Excellent post GreenandRed and i agree wholeheartedly.

I was struck by the experience of Stefan Okunbor, who as we know left what looked like a promising career fro Kerry and moved to the AFL, interestingly Deividas Uosis has also taken that route, i think its possible reading Steffen lived experience that accommodating diversity may have been part of his decision making process. Im not singling out Kerry as im sure this happens up and down the country, id include my own county in that, ive personally confronted people over the years over things shouted from stands particularly to Jayo - i was younger and hot headed then.

I was struck by the effort and lengths Stefans Mum made when he was younger to intergate him into the community, but i could also see as a parent, not wanting your child playing GAA if they came home and shared a racist or prejudiced experience or read Stefan experience. There are problems in the GAA that go way beyond a flag and we and the GAA need to do more to accomadate and stop racisim and prejudice. Tolerance around the flag is symbolic of the underlying issue.

I would ask everyone to read the following account by Stefan Okunbar and ask themselves would they really be comfortable with him playing for Kerry in PUC with opposition fans waiving 1000's of Confederacy flags.

AFL player and former Kerry minor star Stefan Okunbor has opened up on the shocking racism he endured as a young black man living and playing football in Ireland.

Okunbor, who also played for Kerry U20s, admits he has found it difficult to talk to friends and teammates about episodes of racism. But amid the global wave of outrage following the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis, he hopes his story will educate people that real change will take more than social media posts.

Born in Moldova, Okunbor moved to Ireland as a three-year-old, with his Nigerian father and Moldovan mother.


He tasted All-Ireland success as a Kerry minor in 2016, before moving to Australia last year, where he is a rising star at the Victoria based Geelong Cats.

But before he left Ireland, Okunbor endured several racist episodes that stunned and hurt him.

"I have been extremely fortunate to grow up as a proud black Irishman, I love Ireland, it is home," he says, stressing that racist episodes have been infrequent.

"On the occasion that they did (occur)…they stuck", he says, "a constant reminder that I was a minority.

"It has always been an uncomfortable topic to converse about with my peers because the majority of them are 'white Irish' and although they would listen and be supportive, they simply could not understand the profound effect that some of the derogative insults that I have received have had on my life."

The incidents happened both "on and off the pitch".

"The first racial incident occurred while working during my gap year pre-college, it was my Kerry minor year.

"It was at the ripe age of 17 that I first questioned people's views on a black man's place in Irish society after being called a "black b*****d by an elderly colleague who later claimed in a meeting with management that it was just 'friendly banter'.

"I have never taken part in this type of racist banter at my expense with anyone and I certainly didn't condone it.

"It made me wonder if this is what being out of the relative safety of secondary school and going into the real world felt like? Is this how all old Irish men act towards blacks?

"A few of my friends may be shocked because I have always shied away from speaking out about any racial incidents I've had. In the past I found it difficult making my colleagues, who respect you, aware of incidents where I have been belittled and made feel miniscule.

"I wouldn't have dared to share it with my teammates on the Kerry minor panel, a place where I and everyone who put the Kerry jersey on was respected for who they were."

Okunbor first donned the jersey of his beloved Na Gaeil club in Tralee as a six-year old. That move marked "an effort by my mother to integrate me into the Irish culture and society, as Gaelic football is extremely family and community orientated".

"I instantly fell in love with the game and have made lifelong friends along the way. Football is engrained in Irish culture and I always felt like I 'did my bit' by playing it".

But two separate incidents of racial abuse on the football pitch in the year prior to moving to Australia "really hit home".

"Whilst taking a shot against 'Team A', which I will not name out of respect, an opposing player began to make monkey noises.

"I couldn't believe it, I didn't want to believe it. Several of my teammates who were nearby and heard him scuffed him up as I steered clear. I didn't want anything to do with it, I just wanted to block it out of my life and hope I didn't have to endure the embarrassment ever again."

The perpetrator ultimately received an eight-week ban.

"For once I felt justice has been served," Okunbor says.

The most recent episode of racial abuse served as a reminder "of the views towards blacks that I was very much willing to forget".

"The third incident was more shocking than anything as I had played with this player on a different team.

"It was a very tense game, but I never anticipated it would get this heated. There was a moment in the game in which bodies were clashing in a ten or so man melee. I engaged with this particular player only for him to turn around and yell something all too familiar, 'what do you think you're doing you black b******d?'

"I was lost for words. All my life I had done nothing but give my all for my club, county, and community and this is the respect I was shown. I could see that other players had heard it, but I didn't know how to react. I stayed calm and reported the incident to the referee, but he didn't send the player off as he hadn't heard the insult.

"I couldn't concentrate for the rest of the game as I questioned the referee's integrity."

Okunbor didn't address the issue after the game, not wanting to face the hearing process that would follow, nor "the embarrassment of the case going public"

"I did not want to feel more marginalised than I already was, so I brushed it under the rug. It has been a chip on my shoulder ever since."

He says his experiences are not unique.

"My black friends share similar experiences, my father has also been a victim, which hurts me to say."

He stresses his experience of Irish life has been mainly positive, but warns that the current Black Lives Matter movement will mean nothing if it just amounts to social media posts.

"If it is seen as a box ticked by jumping on the bandwagon, in fear of being labelled a racist if you don't, it means nothing.

"I'm not painting a whole nation with the same brush, I can't generalise a country due to the ignorance of a few.

"I cannot stress enough how lucky I was to have forged my life in Ireland. Ireland is a beautiful and great place to live and raise a family. I just hope that the incidents I have shared and the realisation that everyone globally is coming to terms with can make people act differently when witnessing any form of racism as it is an issue that can be easily overlooked.

"These are just three incidents from my life that I felt would be most important to address. There are countless deeper ways people's comments could segregate and affect minorities.

"I hope people can come away from reading this with more awareness and understanding about the issues of racism and stomp it out for good".

"
Awful that Stefan Okunbor had to endure that sort of racial abuse, it's abhorrent and those who abused him have no place in our game.

Unfortunately you'll get these idiots who want to try and humiliate someone in front of a crowd to be the big man, the local legend, 'did you hear what such and such said, isn't he gas'. That's the sort of thing that needs to be stamped out.

Htaem (Meath) - Posts: 8427 - 14/06/2020 11:39:04    2280766

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Replying To Cockney_Cat:  "No. Stewards will confiscate any Confederate flags brought to its grounds."
Go back and read the post I was answering...he said if there were NO BAN on the Flags what would happen and my answer was to that.

Trump2020 (Galway) - Posts: 959 - 14/06/2020 11:51:58    2280767

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Replying To bdbuddah:  "The battle flag was never the flag official flag of the confederacy but was a flag used during battles during the civil war.
The flag was was associated with Robert E Lee, the most famous general/ figure associated with the south during the war (he personally was against slavery but fought as he felt duty bound to fight for his home state).
In the American south it had different meanings to different people. To some it is a symbol of the huge amount of their ancestors who were killed in the war, to some it is a symbol of oppression/ supremacy and some others like the idea of having a rebel flag against government telling them what to do. Maybe some associate it with country music (or Elvis, some of his posters I saw growing up had the flag).
Like the civil war itself it is complicated (few realise that the federal government did not decree the slaves freedom until 18 months after the war started).
It's only in the last few years that people have objected to its display in America, generally before this people were left to make up their own mind.
Like Cork, Napoli fans in Seire A (and some other soccer fans in different countries) use the flag as they like the general idea of being Southern rebels and it looks good.
Some people just love telling people what to do."
'Some people just love telling people what to do'

On that we are agreed.

My central point in all of this is that if in 2020 you choose, out of all your options, to fly the Confederate flag to support your county, then it's logical to assume that you know what it represents and therefore are comfortable associating yourself with what it represents.

I don't think, with all the knowledge that we have, that anyone can be offended by that.

MesAmis (Dublin) - Posts: 13009 - 14/06/2020 12:06:38    2280769

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Replying To Htaem:  "Good post Whammo, I completely understand your view about wanting err on the side of it not being acceptable, even if we don't fully agree on all points.

One of my main concerns is the current wave of far left hysteria that seems hell bent on erasing as many things which 'offend' them as possible. I'd rather see people have as much personal freedom of choice as possible but I think that's gradually coming under threat these days.

For me signs and symbols hold no inherent meaning, their meaning is entirely defined by us and things that are man made can be re-defined. Now that doesn't change what they meant to somebody in the past, but it can change what they mean to somebody in the future.

Anyway we shouldn't be giving so much power to symbols, as comedian George Carlin put it, leave the symbols to the symbol minded :-)"
I agree to an extent to what you are saying.

My main point is that the lines should be drawn with the specifics of the symbol/flag at hand.

I also don't believe that in this specific case that it's a question of the perpetually offended finding something to get annoyed about.

I can absolutely emphasise with a black person who would find that flag offensive. I think society would be a better place if we do err on the side of understanding and listening to people's genuine grievances.

I think human beings are smart enough to know when something is a part of outrage culture or a something is genuine hurt.

I personally think that the confederate flag is unambiguously racist, others don't agree.

I don't think that's the important question though.

I think we as a society lose very little by eradicating it and gain a lot if more people feel included and heard.

I also think a lot of people try to fog up issues as part of the culture war, which is wrong and unproductive. I try to keep an open mind on things and I would regularly read the opinion pieces of right leaning commentators and IDW types. What always strikes me about these pieces is that they always speak of some sort of homogeneous "left". Phrases like "the left" or snowflakes or woke crowd really irritate me.

It's a tactic to try to undermine people's point of view as being a part of group think and it's wholly wrong. It's intensely irritating and in my mind is really not a reflection of the real world.

Opposition of the confederate flag is to my mind in the broad scheme of things, to my mind at least, shouldn't be a controversial subject and I'll be honest I personally am a little disappointed that it appears not everyone in Irish society agrees with me.

Whammo86 (Antrim) - Posts: 3015 - 14/06/2020 12:09:31    2280771

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I'm up for banning the butchers apron alright. It's a horrible site anywhere especially on Irish soil.

Ollie2 (Louth) - Posts: 126 - 14/06/2020 12:09:39    2280772

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