Atletico Madrid: Griezmann’s unaccountability could ruin football

In December, Antoine Griezmann dressed up in blackface. This summer, he will likely be sold to Barcelona. Is this a problem for football?

by Jon Mackenzie

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

On December 17th last year, Antoine Griezmann went to a party.

Nothing remarkable about that. Except for the fact that he went to the ’80s Party’ as a basketball player… and blacked himself up.

Less than six months later and the diminutive Frenchman finds himself in the headlines again – this time for an increasingly-likely exit to the Camp Nou in the summer.

Five months. No reparations. The question is: will this lax attitude to footballers morality eventually be the undoing of the sport?

Of what does the good football life consist?

Of course, it comes as no surprise that footballers often operate by dubious moral codes.

Any footballer worthy of the name has, at some point, evaded or avoided taxes. 

REUTERS/Albert Gea

Some of them come with more troubling backstories: who remembers Cristiano Ronaldo’s alleged out-of-court settlement regarding a rape allegation? Or what about Marcos Alonso’s drink-driving incident that led to the death of a twenty-two-year-old girl?

In fact, most likely you don’t remember these stories. For we have a funny habit of forgetting uncomfortable truths when football is at stake. 

No alarms and no surprises

As for the cause of these ethical dilemmas in the lives of footballers, is there any real surprise?

Plucked out of anything like a community at an early age, lavished with money, primped and preened and seldom admonished, it is a matter of course that these footballers should have questionable ideas about how they fit within society.

Jonathan Liew has written about the way that this social isolation has led to footballers becoming irredeemably “uncool”.

REUTERS/Susana Vera

“The modern footballer is a sort of grotesque human experiment,” he writes. “Wrenched from their social cadre at an early age and fed on an exclusive diet of seven-a-side, trained not to say anything of interest, denied any of the chemical vices that make young people vaguely interesting.”

From an ethical position, the same sort of process can be observed. 

Where a schoolyard can be the context in which you get told that your dress sense is dodgy, it also offers a context within which the earliest ideas of morality are formed. 

Maybe not quite in the same sense in which fashion sense is called out but through the interaction of the collective in which something like ‘shared humanity’ – or whatever you want to call it – is appreciated.

Why do we do it?

As for why we ignore these foibles in footballers, there are any number of reasons why this might happen.

On the one hand, as consumers, we are willing to overlook the flaws in our heroes – not that we think of them as being above reproach, but that we don’t consider their flaws to be worthy of protesting football in any meaningful way.

REUTERS/Sergio Perez

As is all too often the case, though, these micro-level ethical dilemmas are secondary to more basic moral conundra that could be offset by individuals higher up the food chain.

Where the ‘common or garden fan’ can only influence the structures of the beautiful game by non-participation – and, in the end, what is that going to do? – the owners, board members and back-room staff of clubs have far more of a say in the way that clubs behave than the fans do.

Do the concerns to succeed at the level of competition or profit outweigh the concerns not to sign a player who might hold a morally dubious position? Often the answer is yes.

Forgive them for they know exactly what they are doing

For Karl Marx, the maxim that motivated capitalism was ‘Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’.

In recent times, Slavoj Zizek has inverted that mantra: ‘Forgive them for they know exactly what they are doing.’

We find ourselves, then, as football fans, in a position where we are aware of the moral culpability of our teams and yet we do not care enough to change our behaviour.

The question is whether or not this will ever change? Will the audience ever tire of the fact that the footballers who absorb our disposable (and sometimes indisposable) income are not subject to the same rules of behaviour as we are?

At this point it looks impossible. But in the future, the unaccountability of footballers like Antoine Griezmann to the laws which govern society could ruin football.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.



[zombify_post]

Jon Mackenzie

a