Dave Kitson has hit back at recent racism claims made against him, and says he’s been fighting against discrimination in football for his entire career.
Kitson is bidding to replace Gordon Taylor as the chief executive of the PFA, branding the players’ union an ‘absolute shambles’ that has been ‘self-serving’ and has ‘failed’ its members.
But his attempts to overthrow the long-serving chief have been undermined by his own comments and a series of posts on social media, which have led to a backlash from the public and also a number of players.
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The time for change is now. #standingtogether #NewPFA . Photo credit// @andyhooper21
In an interview with talkSPORT in December 2018 – part of which you can listen to below – the former Reading and Stoke striker appeared to suggest Manchester City star Raheem Sterling ‘made himself a target’ after suffering racial abuse during a Premier League match against Chelsea.
Kitson apologised for those comments last week and admitted he used ‘clumsy language’. He has also been accused of racial stereotyping for a number of posts on his Instagram page.
Kitson joined the Kick Off on talkSPORT on Thursday evening to respond to the criticism he has faced and his alleged racist language and behaviour.
And the former striker insisted both cases have been taken wildly out of context.
Explaining his comments about City and England star Sterling, Kitson said: “The point I was trying to make was, why do they always speak about Raheem?
“I think he’s had a horrible time of it in the press, I don’t think he’s been treated fairly in the press at all, I think he’s been made a scapegoat by a lot of newspapers.
“I thought, well perhaps I can offer a bit of a unique perspective, a different take on things and I can try and help other players, not just Raheem, to say, ‘listen, when you do this you make yourself a target for those idiots who are looking for any reason to shout their disgusting and vile abuse at you’.
“I must have proceeded every line with, ‘there is no condonation for racism’, there never can be and there never will be as far as I’m concerned.
“I was just trying to find out why these morons do what they do, so that the next generation don’t do it, and it didn’t come out in the right way, in the way I was trying to express the point, unfortunately.
“I rang Manchester City afterwards and spoke to their media relations officer and said, ‘look, this had happened and I’m not happy with it, I would like the chance to address it’. And the message that came back was, ‘don’t worry about it, it’s not an issue up here, we know what you’re trying to say’. Whether he was just fobbing me off, I don’t know.
“But, for me, it was an issue and I would have liked it to come out better.
“While there is no racism in there, I haven’t used any racist language, I have not expressed myself as well as I would have liked. I’ve got a fairly decent command of the English language and that is a frustration for me as I couldn’t get my wording out as I would have liked to.”
Kitson has also faced criticism over the content on his Instagram, which features several posts that show pictures of black footballers but feature captions that claim they are different black players.
One particular post that has been widely shared is an image of a supermarket worker with the captain, ‘Breaking News: Danny Welbeck completes his move to my local Tesco’.
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Breaking News: Danny Welbeck completes his move to my local Tesco.
But Kitson, who has posted similar pictures featuring white players, says this is an inside joke in the football world and his only aim is to ‘make people smile’.
The Daily Mirror’s Darren Lewis asked Kitson about these posts, and the former striker responded:
“You’ve obviously seen the white players where I’ve done the same thing? David Luiz, John Terry, Fernando Torres.
“It’s basically a footballer thing when you try and point out the obvious but it clearly isn’t that person, and then you try to get a rise off somebody who actually says, ‘oh no, it’s not that person, it’s this person’.
“That’s a footballer-ism that was really unique to me when I first came into football at 21 years old and then I found out that’s how it was, it was like a thing where you’re trying to get people to point out the obvious and it gave a bit of strange kind of happiness to footballers, all footballers.
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Trying to fight off the attentions of Virgil Van Dijk. #liverpool
“The Danny Welbeck thing I believe was being shared on lots of group chats, I think it was transfer deadline day and there was a chap in Tesco who really was a doppelgänger for Danny Welbeck, he looked exactly the same.
“Now, if he hadn’t looked like Danny Welbeck, of course I’m not going to post a picture of another black gentleman and say’ this is Danny Welbeck’, because that is clearly racist.
“But this guy just looks exactly like Danny Welbeck and it was just me trying to make people smile – that’s where it starts and that’s where it ends.”
On the accusations, Kitson added: “There is no form of racism that is acceptable in any way shape or form, I’ve said that so many times and this is the great frustration for me.
“I’ve sat in changing rooms and seen kids crying after being racially abused. I’ve stood next to them.
“When [former Reading teammate] Leroy Lita parked his car in the town centre of Reading, they did a very similar thing to the treatment of the media have given Raheem – they put his picture with his car, a Hummer, on the front page.
“I went to the media and said, you knock that off, that is shoddy journalism, any more of that and this whole club is closed to you.”
In fact, he feels so strongly about the issue of racism in the English game that he is making it one of his top priorities if he fulfils his dream to take charge of the PFA, saying the current regime is ‘failing black players’.
“I spoke to Fabrice Muamba, who works at the PFA, I had a conversation with him for an hour.
“I said to him very blatantly, ‘are the PFA doing enough on racism?’ And his answer was, ‘no we can do more’.
“Well, it’s been 39 years and it’s as bad as I’ve seen it in the leagues, so what you’ve done isn’t working, it hasn’t worked.
“You have failed us and you have failed the black players who have been racially abused and we’re going to do something about it.”
Kitson’s bid to replace Taylor as PFA chief has not gone down well with some.
Former player Marvin Sordell has told talkSPORT he would not want the former striker representing him, while former England manager Sam Allardyce branded his plan ‘embarrassing’.
But Kitson insists his plans are serious and he is passionate about giving the union back to the players, and told talkSPORT his plans to reform the Professional Footballers’ Association for the better.
“You can’t please everybody, but regardless of what you think of me as an individual or whatever you thought of me as a footballer, I genuinely have everybody’s best interests at heart.
“The manifesto I’ve put together reflects that. It’s an inclusive manifesto in which I believe members should take back control of their own union instead of being dictated to.
“The right people in that respect will be working in the right jobs, the jobs they’re absolutely suited for, the best people we can find.
“It has to be that way because there’s an awful lot of work to do and, dare I say, undo.
“The way the PFA has been run so far as I can tell since I started my career, has not been in our best interest, it has been self serving – that is my biggest gripe.
“So, anybody who wants to run the PFA so long as it’s not going to run in the same form as it is now, I’d really welcome them to come forward. I think the more the merrier in this instance.”