John Motson

Legendary English soccer commentator John Motson has called over 2,000 matches on television and radio since 1969, working mostly with the BBC from 1968 through 2018, providing commentary for EA Sports’ FIFA series for a decade (1996-2005), and then doing radio work for TalkSport this season. But it’s the radio work that has him in some hot water lately, as the 73-year-old Motson’s description of Millwall striker Tom Elliott as “big, black, and brave” during that club’s win over Wimbledon in the fifth round of the FA Cup Saturday brought him widespread criticism, earned him a warning from his TalkSport bosses (plus their removal of the archived broadcast from their website), and eventually led to him personally apologizing to Elliott.

Here’s more on that from The Guardian:

John Motson has personally apologised to the Millwall striker Tom Elliott after describing him as “big, black and brave” on TalkSport.

Elliott is understood to have acknowledged the private apology from Motson and to be keen to draw a line under the matter.

TalkSport, responding to a story first reported by the Daily Mail, said: “We reviewed a live commentary by John Motson and decided to remove it from replay. TalkSport and all of its broadcasters take such matters very seriously and would never wish to offend.”

Referring to a player’s race this way is problematic, and it’s understandable why that led to a lot of backlash and to Motson’s eventual apology. There was no need to mention Elliott’s race here. And someone with as much broadcasting experience as Motson should realize that, and should realize how a comment like that might be perceived.

But at the same time, it’s also understandable why this appears settled with just an apology rather than a suspension or termination (which has happened in some other cases of comments with apparent racial connotations, intentional or otherwise). Motson’s comments were poorly-conceived, but not derogatory, and he’s a prominent enough figure that TalkSport probably prefers to just warn him rather than suspend or fire him. It’s one more case of broadcasters needing to think about how comments will be received, though, and one more reason to stay away from bringing up race on a game broadcast.

[The Guardian]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.