NO right thinking person can do anything but condemn the racist remarks directed at Crossmaglen player, Aaron Cunningham, in the recent Ulster Club Championship final against Kilcoo.
But now that the dust has settled on this controversy, let’s take a logical look at exactly what happened.
Indeed, let’s quote Aaron’s father, Joey Cunningham, an ex Armagh Co. player and a Portadown midfield player, who said that the people guilty of making the racist remaks were not necessarily racist!
I, for one, knows what he means when he said: “In the heat of the moment people (usually decent, ordinary fans) can get carried away and say something that they later would be ashamed of.”
“Sledging,” as it is called Gaelic Games has, I believe, crossed the line in terms of what is aceptable and some fans have tuned into this and also crossed the line between what is acceptable and what is not.
Joey Cunningham went on: “The people who made the remarks are not racist. They are ignorant, but they are not racist. I can say that with my hand on my heart, but they have to stand up and apologise for what they have done.”
I think Joey has taken a very decent and, indeed, a brave stance on the matter and it goes without saying that the Cunningham family deserve the total support of the community.
This controversy cannot be simply brushed under the carpet or, indeed, side-stepped by a Croke Park PR Sideshow, but it’s also important to be realistic about the extent of this particular problem.
Like so many others, I do not believe that racism exists within the G.A.A. That some ignorant, hot-headed unthinking people chanted racist remarks is, without question, to be totally condemned and it must be dealt with publicly.
While racist remarks are not considered the same as someone being racist, they are simply not acceptable at any level and if this happened in my club, I would be demanding that those involved own up and take responsibility for their actions without being branded a racist.
It’s up to Kilcoo to start the ball rolling in order to protect the good name of their won club, their supporters in particular and the G.A.A. in general.