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Opinion: Don’t Disrespect the Black and White

Newcastle United fans deserve more than your lack of respect. The badge deserves better.

The Newcastle United Club Crest
Photo by Visionhaus

Their own Chief Football Writer, Miguel Delaney, has written extensively about ‘Sportswashing’ and how the proposed PIF takeover of Newcastle United has this goal in mind. Indeed, a recent article by him contained the following lines:

‘It is about integration.’

‘You actually work your way into the social fabric a club has with its supporters.’

‘People don’t even think about the fact they’re spreading branding.’

It is very clear to all Newcastle United fans that Miguel is an advocate for the awareness and rejection of sportswashing and yet articles about our club are repeatedly using an image which integrates their flag, works it into the fabric of the club and spreads their branding. He has even tweeted that, ‘The number of Newcastle fans with Saudi Arabian flags in their twitter bios alone is evidence of the effect of sportswashing.’ So why is this image being used when there are thousands of others available?

This is old ground and we’ve covered the topic previously but aanyone who has spoken to Newcastle United fans will know that the vast majority, despite wanting the takeover to succeed, are not ignorant to what is happening in Saudi Arabia. The vast majority of fans do not have the Saudi Arabian flag in their twitter bio, have educated themselves to a level above the average man on the street and have sympathy towards the issues raised.

Newcastle United v Aston Villa
We are proud of our black and white stripes
Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images

The vast majority of Newcastle United fans do not condone the actions of the state but recognise their inability to influence this behaviour on a geopolitical scale. What happens on a macro level is out of our control but on a micro level, we have been willing to increase personal awareness and educate each other about these important issues. The fans he refers to perhaps did not know better at the time of using the flag or were simply carried away by the excitement of the takeover. Either way, I do not think those who have done this deserve criticism without knowing their individual reason for doing so. Generalisation and assumption does not help anyone.

However, sports writers who are independent from the club and do not have their judgement impaired by the excitement and desperation for a new dawn ought to have higher standards. If Newcastle United fans are expected, as they have been implored by this same publication, to act as a moral compass then they are not helping the situation with this image. One can not spend months chastising individuals on Twitter for the use of the Saudi flag and then do the same thing in national articles. It is hypocritical and undoes any progress which may have been made. Whilst I understand that journalists have the freedom to write as they wish, the use of this image does not fall under that same category and is insulting to the Newcastle United of the present and past.

Newcastle United fans feels as though we have lost our club over the last decade but we have always retained a pride in our city, our crest and our black and white stripes. It may seem like nothing to the people repeatedly using this image but it matters to us. They will be well aware of the public reaction to the stadium name change attempt and our club crest has a similar protected status.

Newcastle United v Burnley - Premier League - St James’ Park
The club crest means something to fans
Photo by Richard Sellers/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

I have attempted to reach out to Tony Evans, who used the image recently, and Miguel Delaney but they have unfortunately not responded. We might not always agree with journalists and there has been plenty of that over these last few months but they are entitled to their opinions and I do not condone some of the personal abuse they receive. However, this image is not journalism and it is not an opinion. It is the public defacing of our club crest from a national newspaper with the flag of a state they have spent the last few months decrying. It is antagonistic and ignorant, at best, and I have personally written to The Independent to request that this image is removed and no longer used by them.

We can only move forward with this sensitive and controversial situation in an environment of respect but it works both ways. Don’t disrespect us.

Newcastle. United. Will never be defeated.