Hill: Big Ron comments were 'funny'
by WAYNE VEYSEY, Evening Standard
Last updated at 15:04 13 May 2004
Hill, 75, became the first major football figure to publicly defend fellow pundit Atkinson's use of the words "lazy, f****** thick nigger" to describe Marcel Desailly during a live commentary last month.
Atkinson, 65, immediately resigned from ITV Sport, admitting he was an "idiot" and apologised to the Chelsea defender.
The remark, made when he thought his microphone was switched off, was not broadcast in Britain but was heard in several Middle Eastern countries where TV stations were still taking a live feed from the game.
Asked in an interview today whether Atkinson should have resigned, Hill insisted it was the "language of the football field - they do swear".
The former Match of the Day presenter, who now hosts a weekly programme on Sky Sports, added: "In that context, you wouldn't think that words like nigger were particularly insulting: it would be funny. Without meaning to insult any black men, it's us having fun. What about people who make jokes about my long chin?
"I mean, nigger is black - so we have jokes where we call them niggers because they're black. Why should that be any more of an offence than someone calling me chinny?
"If everyone was kicked out of their job for saying the wrong sentence at the wrong time, not meaning it to be heard publicly, there would be very few of us left at work.
"I don't think Ron is a racist. I've known him a long time. He has an awful lot of charm and doesn't mean to do any damage."
'Mind boggling' comments
Many of Atkinson's former colleagues have said he is not racist, but Hill has become the first to publicly defend his words and his comments are certain to anger anti-racist campaigners.
Piara Powar, director of Kick It Out, football's anti-racism group, described Hill's comments as "mind boggling" and out of touch with today's footballers.
He added: "Jimmy Hill's comments are as offensive as Ron Atkinson's. It is a frightening insight into some of the attitudes his generation still hold."
Brendon Batson, former deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, said: "I'm surprised by Jimmy's comments."
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