There are a few bad ways to wake up on the first Monday of the year. One is to be a Chicago Bears fan, your team losing after a last second field goal clangs off both the post and crossbar. One is to be one of those weird people who cares about film awards, watching Bohemian Rhapsody win things at the Golden Globes – with the added bonus of knowing you’re one of those people who cares.
But spare a thought for Wayne Hennessey, who – if he were the type to search his own name on Twitter – would find that ‘Wayne Hennessey Nazi’ would be a suggested search. A very, very high suggested search.
Spare a thought for him, but don’t make it a sympathetic thought. Because the reason ‘Wayne Hennessey Nazi’ is a suggested search is that he, in a picture that he knew was being taken, by a person, presumably with the stated intention of putting it on the internet, did a Nazi salute.
If you’re not keeping track, that’s what we term as a ‘really really really really stupid thing to do’.
To throw up a Nazi salute, complete with mock ‘Hitler moustache’ motion, in a picture being taken by your only German teammate? Unutterably thick. To do so after a December in which we saw instance after instance of racial and antisemitic abuse flagged up in football? Even more actively offensive. To do all of that and then deny having done it? Well.
The sensible thing to have done in Hennessey’s situation would have been to put out a grovelling apology – ‘I’m sorry, it was meant as a joke but clearly it was completely misjudged, I am a daft man and again, I’m sorry.’ We don’t really do sincere apologies now as a society though, and we do a lot of denying the clear and obvious. So that’s what Hennessey did.
moment by the camera this looks like I am making a completely inappropriate type of salute. I can assure everyone I would never ever do that and any resemblance to that kind of gesture is absolutely coincidental. Love and peace Wayne
— Wayne Hennessey (@WayneHennessey1) January 6, 2019
It’s important that Hennessey is hounded about this. It’s important that his hilariously inept explanation isn’t accepted at face value – because as long as he stands by his version of events, there will be a not insubstantial group of people who’ll insist that we’ll ‘never really know’ what he was doing. Forget the context, forget that his hand is in the worst possible place to amplify his voice while shouting down the table to someone who can’t hear him; he’s denied it, so we’ll ‘never really know’.
It’s an indictment on the – and hold your winces at the Incredibly Online phrasing – post-truth society that we seem to be living in, that Hennessey even thinks he can get away with this, and he shouldn’t be allowed to.
What’s interesting is what Crystal Palace and the FA do from here. Palace haven’t posted on social media since the picture went out into the world, but they have a responsibility to their fans to actively and visibly look into this, rather than just accepting Hennessey at his word.
The FA’s position, in some ways, is easier. They have no incentive to keep Hennessey happy, and if a series of headlines on every news website in the world shouting ‘PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALLER NAZI SALUTE’ doesn’t count as bringing the game into disrepute, it’s hard to see what possibly could.
Elsewhere around Europe, Andres Iniesta – at time of writing – has gone 15 hours without deleting a picture of himself and two men in blackface as part of a Spanish Dia de los Reyes celebration. Obviously.
When Juventus defended Cristiano Ronaldo from rape accusations on the basis of his ‘professionalism and dedication’, it felt like a point of no return for the idea of pretending that being a socially conscious football fan is morally possible. Sunday just tapped on the deeply-embedded nails in the lid of that coffin. People aren’t held to account for what they do, they’re protected by their status, their money and their rabid fanbases, who will go to the wall to them at a moment’s notice no matter whether they’re right or wrong.
Football is toxic, the media is toxic, everything sucks and we’re all going to die as politicians ignore climate change in exchange for donations and backing from the corporations speeding us towards our inevitable societal demise.
Love and peace,