Man Utd spitting row: Should being spat at be treated as seriously as racism?

Manchester United’s Johnny Evans and Newcastle United’s Papiss Cisse have both been charged with spitting by the FA after Wednesday’s Premier League match at St James’s Park.

Unacceptable behaviour by footballers on and off the pitch isn’t a new phenomenon but spitting is often regarded as one of the worst sins to commit.

In The Independent, Paul Scholes described it as the ‘lowest of the low’ and a ‘deeply provocative act, as unacceptable in the game as it would be on the street.’

But others have criticised the FA’s response – if found guilty, both footballers will serve a longer ban than John Terry did over racial abuse allegations in the 2012 Anton Ferdinand incident at QPR.

Here, the incident has provoked similar vitriol and strong opinions as Stoke player, Jonathan Walters, told TalkSPORT that anyone who spat at him would ‘end up eating through a straw.’

In the wake of the incident, MM took to the streets to ask: 

Does spitting deserve a harsher penalty than racist abuse on the pitch?

YES 53%
NO 47%


Liz Mulvaney, a healthcare lawyer from Manchester, said that whilst they were ‘equally as bad’, spitting ‘goes further’ than racism.

“From a legal point of view, spitting is in the realms of hitting, it is a missile-aimed deliberate physical assault,” she said.

Dan Wheatley, a 38-year-old visual artist from Old Trafford, described himself as a ‘former football supporter’ and was damning of the entire sport.

He said: “They’re both equally disgusting – it’s an assertion of power and control by the aggressor to make people feel less than human.

SICK OF IT: Dan Wheatley labelled himself a ‘former football supporter’

“I’m sick of football becoming a sport which breeds bad examples for children to replicate on the playground. These players have a social and moral duty to uphold good behaviour.

“Spitting and racism are both illegal offences off the pitch but football is now too money-orientated to care.”

Josh Alexander, a 25-year-old sales worker from Henley, felt strongly that racism was worse.

“Spitting is a horribly unhygienic assault but racism affects people on a mental and emotional level. It attacks humans at their most basic differences. I could get over somebody aggressively spitting at me easier.”

Kevin Bennett, a 30-year-old barber and customer service representative, also felt that racism was ‘definitely worse’.

‘PATHETIC’: Kevin Bennett said the incident shows the worrying mindset of professional footballers

 “We live in 2015 where it should be totally unacceptable to engage in any racist, homophobic or sexist behaviour,” he said.

“It’s totally small-minded and pathetic. It shows a mindset that professional athletes should be above. Being racist is part of a bigger picture – it highlights how common it still is.

“I would never do it myself, but I understand why somebody may be so infuriated that they spit at somebody much more than I understand why somebody would be racist to another human being.”

However, Hassan Yusuk, a 39-year-old newspaper seller from Somalia who supports Manchester City, felt that racism on the pitch shouldn’t necessarily be taken as seriously as off the pitch.

He said: “At the African Cup, words and insults are always traded but it’s not taken too seriously.

KEEP CALM: Hassan Yusuk said players like Suarez and Balotelli should try not to ‘lose control’

“It can be hard to control yourself on the pitch but you should never lose control of yourself – Suarez and Balotelli are examples of people who did and it was bad. On the pitch, I would hate to be spat at.”

Ken McNamara, a 50-year-old sales manager from Ireland, said that both behaviours should be condemned but felt that the FA should judge by context.

“Racism and spitting are vile. Whether one should be treated harsher depends on the incident leading up to it. After all, some people might have a spitting fetish and enjoy it!”

Claire Robbins, a 41-year-old admin assistant, felt that they were ‘equally as bad’ but that racism on the pitch should be treated harsher.

 “Any racist comment or words are disgusting – spitting is awful but racism isn’t acceptable.”

‘DISGUSTING’: Claire Robbinssaid any racist language is ‘unacceptable’

Amber Ingle, a graphic designer from San Francisco, agreed that racism was worse because it replicates problems off the pitch. She called for the FA to make greater attempts to challenge this: 

“I just feel that in 2015, racism in football is still a huge problem.

Her friend, Greg Smith, a UX designer was concerned about the hygiene risks spitting poses.

“Racism is always awful but I feel like words don’t carry the same health risk. What if you were spat at by a guy who had Ebola? It’s just gross.”

Diane McCarthy, a 60-year-old Manchester United supporter, agreed that spitting should be treated harsher as it is so ‘needless’ in football.

‘SICKENING’: Diane McCarthy said the players involved need to ‘grow up’

 “Seeing any player spit on the pitch always knocks me sick. I just think these players need to grow up. People may say comments to each other in humour or jest, but there is never an excuse for spitting at another human being.”

Image courtesy of BT Sport, via Youtube, with thanks.

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