UK health club responds to anti-Semitic shirt

Virgin Active apologizes after member is seen wearing Arsenal shirt saying "We 8 Yids" on the back.

April 8, 2012 02:20
3 minute read.
'We 8 Yids' Arsenal football jersey

'We 8 Yids' Arsenal football jersey 370. (photo credit: Anonymous)

LONDON – A popular chain of health clubs in the UK has apologized and condemned the use of a football shirt worn by a member with an anti- Semitic slogan after causing offense to a Jewish member.

Last Tuesday evening, a complaint was lodged with Virgin Active health club in Borehamwood – in Hertfordshire, around 25 km. north of central London – after a man at the club was seen wearing an Arsenal football shirt saying “We 8 Yids” (meaning “We hate Yids”) on the back.

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The reference to “Yids” is associated to a football rivalry between the north London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, who are known to have a huge Jewish support base.

Jonathan Metliss, member of the advisory group Kick Racism Out of Football, said that “regrettably” it was another example of anti-Semitic behavior in British football.

“Tottenham Hotspur supporters call themselves “Yiddos” and this has been used by unsavory groups to denigrate Jews generally, including Israelis,” he said.

“Yossi Benayoun, while playing for Liverpool, was described as a “Yiddo” by Chelsea supporters. The practical problem is that Premier League clubs do not appear to show either the desire or the will to combat this behavior and Arsenal is one of the better ones,” he said.

“Nobody should tolerate or make excuses for public expressions such as this, even if lies within a specific football rivalry in which many Spurs fans refer to themselves as ‘Yids,’” said Mark Gardner, from the Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti- Semitism. “CST opposes this language within the football stadium and most certainly outside it also.”

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was shocked and upset when she saw the man get on a treadmill in front of her at the gym.

“I was astonished to see “We 8 Yids” on the back, he was being so brazenly offensive in a gym with a high percentage of Jewish members,” she said.

“I am shocked that someone would have that printed on any shirt, let alone wear it in such a public place.”

She reported the incident to staff, who she said were very understanding.

They responded immediately searching for the member seen wearing the item of clothing.

“I explained that while not normally easily offended, and while understanding the football connotations, I found it totally unacceptable. I asked them to speak to him and ensure he did not wear it again.

“Football banter or not there is absolutely no place for this sort of blatantly offensive attitude towards Jews,” she told The Jerusalem Post.

Danny Kessler, a Tottenham Hotspur season ticket holder who has an excellent understanding of the rivalry between the two clubs, said it was offensive and a clear case of rivalry taken too far.

“Unfortunately there are some individuals who take a tribal football chant too far and seeing someone having gone to the trouble to get this printed on their backs is beyond belief, as well as it being highly stupid and offensive,” he said.

Virgin Active, who have 122 health clubs across the UK, told the Post that a full report has been filed on the incident and that staff at the health club are working hard to identify the member.

“Virgin Active does not condone or permit the wearing of offensive or inappropriate clothing in its clubs and takes such incidents very seriously.

Virgin Active operates a zero tolerance policy to any form of discrimination, including that of a racial context and apologizes for any offense caused,” a Virgin Active spokesman said.

The incident was also condemned by Arsenal Football Club, who last year were integral to a campaign called “Kick It Out,” aimed at addressing anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish abuse within a football context.

“Arsenal Football Club does not tolerate discrimination of any sort at the club,” a spokesman told the Post on Thursday. “Through the ‘Arsenal for Everyone’ initiative, the club celebrates the diversity of its community.”

He added: “Arsenal encourages supporters to report any forms of discrimination at Emirates Stadium and takes a zero tolerance approach to discriminatory behavior.”

The north London club has also worked with the Anne Frank Trust and has a project called “Arsenal in the Galilee,” which brings together Jewish and Muslim children through football in Israel.

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