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Peter Beardsley’s Actions Have Been a Stain on Newcastle. The Reaction Has Been a Stain on Supporters.

In the wake of allegations of abuse by Peter Beardsley, some Newcastle supporters have reacted in embarrassing fashion.

Newcastle United v Swansea City: Premier League 2 Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Warning: The following article contains embedded images of tweets that Twitter has deemed offensive and racist.

Peter Beardsley, club legend, member of Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers and current U-23 coach, has been placed on leave after being accused by multiple members of the Newcastle United academy of racial harassment during a trip to an adventure playground. According to allegations, Beardsley, upon seeing an African academy player struggle with a climbing apparatus, told the player that “you lot should be good at this.”

Beardsley has also been accused of bullying by Newcastle reserve winger Yassin Ben El-Mhanni, accusations that have been confirmed by written statements of five fellow members of the youth system. Among other incidents, the accusations detail a campaign expressly designed to “humiliate” the 22-year-old winger.

These are not the first accusations of misconduct levied against Beardsley, who in 2003 was similarly accused of inappropriate bullying by players, accusations that would ultimately be cleared by a Premier League inquiry. Additionally, Newcastle was reportedly put in a tough spot with former youth player and England youth international standout Lewis Gibson due to Gibson’s refusal to play for Beardsley any longer. Newcastle would go on to sell Gibson to Everton this past summer.

The preceding 185 words serve only to list the details of the situation in which Peter Beardsley finds himself. Nothing has been exaggerated, no opinions have been offered, yet the preceding 185 words, coupled with memories of Beardsley and existing prejudices, have been enough to drive some Newcastle supporters to believe the following:

· It is beyond the possibilities of the physical world for Peter Beardsley to be guilty of such actions

· All players who accuse Beardsley of unfair and improper treatment should be removed from the Newcastle United system

· But also, even if what Beardsley said is true, the racial abuse of actual children is within his rights, and said players (who are, again, children) should be shipped out for having thin skin

The past week has been an embarrassing one for me as a Newcastle fan. I have been embarrassed to share a preferred club with some of my fellow supporters. As someone who was outspoken about Sunderland supporters’ defense of the club’s handling of Adam Johnson’s treatment of children, I have been embarrassed by my own assumption that Newcastle and its supporters were above such transgressions and blind defense, respectively.

To be perfectly clear, I love the player Peter Beardsley was for Newcastle and the England national team. A walking anachronism in the mold of players like Garrincha, it was fitting that he sported the same haircut as Brian Wilson; he, like his Californian counterpart, just wasn’t made for these times.

None of these feelings should or do have any impact on my impressions of the current situation – the allegations against Beardsley are gross and unacceptable, and no one has any legitimate reason to not blame his accusers. As the responses from backward-thinking Newcastle supporters have shown, we should collectively be empowering those like Yassin and his teammates to speak truth to power despite existing in a system designed to prevent just that.

Unfortunately, we are living through an age in which we are perpetually exposed to defenses of actions like Beardsley’s and those of his defenders. To those who would argue that standing against Beardsley’s alleged actions is a form of virtue signaling, I would ask two questions: when confronted with an issue such as this, is there a response that does not, in one way or another, signal the virtues held by the individual? Is the virtue of treating others with respect and dignity one that is so controversial or embarrassing as to need to remain hidden? The tweets in reaction to news of Beardsley’s actions and his suspension have certainly signaled virtues of their own; they just happen to be virtues in which no one should take pride.

To those who agree that such responses are reprehensible but do not represent the views of most Newcastle supporters, I would argue that you are as correct as you are missing the point. There is a reason that #NotAllMen became a laughingstock; there is a reason that asking Muslim or African American communities to account for crimes and transgressions by members of their respective populations while excusing crimes committed by white men as the actions of disturbed lone wolves is an unacceptable form of institutional racism.

It’s 2018. The actions of Peter Beardsley, if true, have left a stain on Newcastle United. The reaction to news of these actions has left a stain on its supporters. In this age of social media, it is the responsibility of fans to use their platform, whether in print or in the form of social media, to denounce racism, islamophobia, and other forms of abuse within their ranks. Other clubs and supporters, including Sunderland in 2015-2016, have had their moments. Now is, unfortunately, our turn.

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