Neil Lennon backs Celtic players to stand up against racist abuse
Neil Lennon says he would encourage his Celtic players to walk off the pitch if they encounter racist abuse in either of their upcoming Europa League clashes against Lazio.
Lennon’s side host the Serie A giants in Glasgow on Thursday and then travel over to Rome a fortnight later. The Italian side have twice been found guilty of racist behaviour by UEFA this year and will have a partial stadium closure in place for the game on November 7th.
The ultras section alleged to be most responsible for the behaviour aren’t likely to be in attendance but Lennon says he would back his players to take appropriate measures if they are subjected to abuse.
“I would not discourage any player from walking off the pitch if he’s getting racially abused,” the manager told the BBC on Friday.
“I think I would encourage it because it’s pointing out that there is a wrong here. We all have to do a little bit more to prevent it and for individuals it’s personal and it’s very, very hurtful.”
Lennon has stood up to racist abuse before
Lennon himself was subjected to what he calls racist abuse in Scotland last season. Back in November, after being struck by a coin during an Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle, he refused to refer to the verbal abuse he’d received as sectarianism – instead calling it racist.
“You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism,” Lennon again told the BBC. “If a black man is abused, you’re not just abusing the colour of his skin – you’re abusing his culture, heritage, background. It’s the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people with the sense of entitlement, the superiority complex, all I do is stand up for myself.”
As the above quote shows, Lennon has never been one to sit down and take bigoted abuse. Neither has he been one to let it deter him nor has he ever swept it under the carpet. It’s therefore no surprise to see the Hoops gaffer once again standing up to an intolerable offence.
Hopefully the two games against Lazio pass off without incident. But if they don’t we are very likely to see Celtic stand up for what’s right, with Lennon once again leading the way.