The Roy Hodgson ‘joke’ – what the hell is going on here?

by Will Cullen

John Terry with Roy HodgsonMany of you will be waking up this morning, depending on where in the world you are, and reading the story about Roy Hodgson’s half time joke about a space monkey.  So to recap, Roy made a joke about a space monkey that was intended to illustrate the idea that he wanted right-back, Chris Smalling, to play the ball to Andros Townsend, who was destroying the Polish defence.

The joke Roy told is a popular American joke in NASA and goes something like this:

NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions.

They fire the man and the monkey into space.

The intercom crackles, “Monkey, fire the retros”.

A little later, “Monkey, check the solid fuel supply”.

Later still, “Monkey, check the life support systems for the man”.

The astronaut takes umbrage and radios NASA, “When do I get to do something?”

NASA replies, “In 15 minutes – feed the monkey”.

What Roy was trying to do was use the joke to explain to the England team that Townsend, who was playing brilliantly, held the key to an England win. Now, he could have just said that Townsend was important, give him the ball and we will win. But he didn’t. He tried to use a joke to ease the pressure on his team and that joke has now turned into yet another racial incident in football. This places a massive dampener on the England team, especially after two massive and important results. One player in the squad was supposedly offended by Roy’s joke and one can presume this player is the person who leaked the silly incident to the paper.

Respected journalist and personal favourite of mine, Oliver Holt, wrote in his article in the Mirror this morning “The joke is insensitive, perhaps, in the current highly charged racial climate in football”. The key word here is perhaps. Depends how sensitive you are I guess.  I think we are becoming a little hyper -sensitive. To put it into context, Roy didn’t do a Ron Atkinson. He didn’t look Townsend in the eye and call him a derogatory racial name did he. He didn’t throw a banana at him or use the N word. Mark Bright said on Twitter “why use the term “Feed the Monkey” with right black players in the room”. Every monkey or ape reference is not a racial comment Mark.

Ok, Roy could have used a better analogy to emphasise the importance of Townsend and getting him the ball. I don’t know Roy at all, but he has worked with many black players all over the world. He is an elegant, well-educated and articulate man. I’m sure well all know Roy is not a racist and just to point out, Oliver Holt’s article is not suggesting he is. So why has this made the papers then? If Roy isn’t a racist and we all know he isn’t, then what’s the big deal. Townsend didn’t take any offence to the joke. He didn’t complain. He didn’t go to the papers and leak the story. His dad, who works for the Kick It Out campaign, hasn’t complained either. So what’s the fuss about?

This mystery player is believed to be offended by the JOKE and felt it has racial connotations. As I said, Roy could have used a better analogy than the space monkey one but seriously, has it come to this. Are we struggling that much for news or sport content to publish a story like this? Will the words monkey, ape or chimp be soon banned from football.  There is a racist comment like Ron Atkinson’s and then there is a joke. There is the Suarez and Evra incident and then there is Roy’s joke. The difference is plain to see.  Stan Collymore, one of the most sensitive guys in football, summed it up in this tweet last night saying “Racism is hard enough to keep on the agenda as it is without making everyone think legitimate space joke should be cause for offence”. Well done Stan, a man of Afro-Caribbean decent, who knows all too well what racism is about.

Roy issued an apology stating that he had spoken to Townsend and the player was fine. He apologised if his joke caused anyone any offence. I’m sure he knows he could have used a better analogy but the unfortunate thing is this joke will over-shadow the remarkable achievement of qualifying for the World Cup and finishing top of the group. It was a bad joke. Not a racist comment. Two very different things. To be honest I even feel ashamed writing an article about this nonsensical tripe. How this made it into a newspaper is beyond me.  Why didn’t the player just reveal himself and say he was offended? I’ll tell you why, because if he did reveal himself and told the world he was offended by Roy’s joke, he would be ridiculed. So instead he hides behind a news story.

Some of you may say “Who are you or we to define what offends other people”.  But if this player feels so strongly about it then he should have approached the manager and spoken to him, rather than run off and leak it to the press. Oliver Holt was just doing his job by informing the public. Oliver isn’t to blame. Roy isn’t to blame. No one is to blame. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep, this offended mystery player will see what a joke this incident has become.

Can we get back to football please?

40 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    “It was a bad joke. Not a racist comment.”
    If it’s a bad joke, then why? Because it’s racist? No. It’s a good joke and it’s not racist at all. The asshole who leaked the story should be ashamed.

  2. nuhup913 says:

    If the joke referred to Wayne Rooney instead would that have been offensive to monkeys?

  3. MikeC says:

    @ David GEnis……..’Afro’ may be a hairstyle, however, Afro-Caribbean is a correct method of describing Caribbean persons who trace their heritage to Africa. You’re welcome…..Sincerely, Mr P Edant

  4. Larry Evans says:

    I am a 75 year old white male. The word monkey has been used to me and by me over the years scores of times, with only white persons present. I cannot remember, ever, a black person being anywhere near. So where the racist bit comes in I cannot imagine. The response to this innocuous remark is typical of the minority of over sensitive do gooders who are constantly complaining about things not being PC in this once great country of ours.

  5. oz123 says:

    I bet the complaint was from a white person. Either a white do gooder with no sense of humour. Or a white racist who knows stuff like this helps to increase racist tension.

    I am white but i know lots of black people that would never even consider this racist. Unfortunately i know white people that would tell a story like this to condone their backward racist ideology. And other white people that think the word black is racist.

    I feel sorry for the black players who everyone Will be accusing

  6. Fred Sticks says:

    How stupid this has become. People are maintaining that yes, it’s only because the player was black that the word monkey was used. Then we have people insisting that we must say ‘African-Carribean’ rather than ‘Afro-Carribean’.
    I’ve got enough worries in my life, this rubbish is not going to keep me awake at night. I couldn’t care less, if this sort of thing offends you, that’s just too bad, I suggest you grow up and grow a skin.

  7. oz123 says:

    Of complaining i should have said.

    Also meant no black person i know would complain about this at all

  8. Rob Foster says:

    Incredible. I think it’s fair to assume that the person who was ‘offended’ was just too DUMB to understand the joke/analogy.

  9. Jaydee says:


  10. Steve says:

    It’s Roy’s and englands night but pathetic people seem intent on spoiling it.. Shame on the scum who broke the ‘ news’ pathetic the whole story is

  11. Simon Paula says:

    It has to be Chris Smalling that complained; he is the idiot of the joke, feeding the monkey, not doing anything

  12. Phil K says:

    Hodgson should have known better. How many times has that term, or similar, been used in and out of context in sport and someone has reacted to it as it has been found offensive.

    No mater the context he was foolish to reference a “monkey” to those players. He is there to manage the players and they are not all from the “John Terry” era !

    1. james says:

      So by your logic the word monkey should not be used around black people because it may offend. A monkey is an animal for gods sake! Have we really become so overtly sensitive and paranoid? Unbelievable…..

  13. David GEnis says:

    Hi Mike

    Um, not any longer it isn’t. Maybe some years ago it was fine but no longer.

  14. trev says:

    roy is one of the nicest blokes you could meet,such a genuine and honest person .how can they vilify this man shame on you

  15. Steve Acton says:

    It would seem to me that Chris Smalling is the only player with cause to take offence at Roy’s analogy.

    Not because of his skin colour or ethnic back-ground, but because there’s an implication that he was the astronaut in this scenario and that his only reason for being there was to feed Townsend the ball.

    If Roy referred to Townsend as the ‘monkey’ on the other hand, it’s because he wanted to highlight the importance of the player’s influence on the game.

    Those that feel that Roy’s choice of words were ‘insensitive’ or ‘offensive’, surely hold some ridiculous, misguided belief that people from some racial back-grounds are genetically closer to our primate cousins than others.

    Let’s just enjoy the football.

  16. Neil says:

    Need to get the players in sort out who leaked it and chuck him out of the squad. Spineless anonymous leak.

  17. what the hell is wrong with people? – there is obviously no racist intent with this joke at all, and it is only the media who have decided to turn the word ‘monkey’ into a racial slur to somehow cause trouble for Hodgson. The joke couldn’t possibly have worked by substituting the word monkey for any other animal except Chimp (which would be more accurate), but the press would still have made out that Hodgson was being racist.

  18. Derek Andrews says:

    I wondered the same thing.

  19. Victor Overmind says:

    England go to the World Cup, the Nation celebrates, Andros Townsend is the hero – what if jealousy was the motive? Townsend’s father is involved with Kick it Out (both of whom have declared that this is a non-story, indeed call it a compliment by Hodgson – what if a jealous mind thought leaking this story would end up pointing fingers at Townsend?)

    That is what needs investigating, small mindedness of jealous player who the press should not afford protection as a source. It is time journalism marked a line in the sand between genuine sources and opportunist leakers. If jealousy was indeed the motive, such a player isn’t fit to wear the England jersey ever again. It is time for journalism and love of country to make a new pact – protect all honourable sources, but leak the scurrilous leaker.


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