Leigh Griffiths appears to have been filmed singing a derogatory song about refugees, aimed at former Hearts player Rudi Skacel. I’m not going to provide a link to the footage, but it can be easily found on the website of a Scottish tabloid. This is a betrayal of Celtic’s core values and should cause the termination of the player’s contract.
Celtic, in my estimation, have long failed to live up to the ethos of the club’s founders. Glasgow is still a city of many immigrants fleeing hardship only to encounter prejudice on these shores. As the recent publicity surrounding the Red Road flats highlighted, the only people the flats are deemed fit to house are asylum seekers. The Irish happened to be the predominant diaspora at the time of the club’s creation- and the Irish identity of the club is important- but it’s myopic to focus solely on the experience of one people.
As far as I can tell, the club make no special effort to reach out to immigrants in the city, and as an avid fan and season-ticket holder, if I’m unaware of any such program, it can hardly be reaching the ears of many. Celtic should be very publicly and very strongly taking on the mantle of the only club in Scotland, and indeed Britain, who consciously strive to include the sections of society most alienated from the mainstream.
Of course the club, like all clubs, would profess to be ‘open to all’; this is merely a platitude that entails no action and takes no political stand. The club was more than simply ‘open’ to the poor Irish of the east end, it was a beacon of solidarity. Being ‘open’ is not enough today either. Marginalised people must be reached out to, and the club are failing in this regard. This scandal should remind Celtic what it stands for, and gives the club chance to affirm its true values.
Griffiths is simply the latest of many footballers who have disgraced themselves by using racial slurs. When Luis Suarez was found guilty of racially abusing Partice Evra, Liverpool FC embarrassed itself by spectacularly supporting the player. One suspects that Suarez’s incredible footballing ability, and the tens of millions they had invested in him, led them to conclude that almost anything he does is tolerable. He may be the figurehead in a Liverpool team that lifts the English title this season, but any triumph comes as the result of a Faustian pact they made with a player whose indefensible actions they defended.
Griffiths’ skills, if not his attitudes, are far from those of Suarez. Nevertheless he is a first-team player who has scored plenty of goals and for whom Celtic paid a significant fee. I want to believe that our club will look beyond their on-field interests and swallow any financial loss that releasing the player may involve. Griffiths simply cannot ever again represent a club who very raison d’etre once was, and should again become, solidarity with immigrant and refugee communities.