Comedian questions the logic behind the decision to select Reginald D. Hunter as a performer at the awards and explores the justification behind his choice of language.
I hear a lot of my fellow comedians saying this and complaining about having their language policed. But we also have a choice. If anyone who books you requests that you don't do certain material, you are free not to take their money, or their gig.
Ava Vidal, Comedian and Stand Up Against Racism patron
Twenty years after the slogan Let's Kick Racism Out of Football was coined, the sport is still dogged with high-profile controversies. So you might have expected the game's leading figures to have the issue of racism at the forefront of their minds.
Indeed, many people are working hard to eradicate the ugly issue from the beautiful game, which only makes what happened at the Professional Footballers' Association's annual awards dinner so disappointing.
It's hard to understand why there was no proper research into the background of the comedian who the PFA decided to book. Reginald D Hunter has been working on the UK comedy circuit for well over a decade, and is hardly shy about using the N-word, having used it in the title of no fewer than four of his solo shows. He even appended the contentious word on the end of his work in progress shows. Booking him for this gig was the equivalent of booking Frankie Boyle for a Mencap benefit.
And just because Hunter often refers to race in his show, did anyone consider actually listening to what he says about it?
I'm with PFA chairman, Clarke Carlisle, when he said the defence "it's only comedy" won't wash here. I hear a lot of my fellow comedians saying this and complaining about having their language policed. But we also have a choice. If anyone who books you requests that you don't do certain material, you are free not to take their money, or their gig.
I have been asked not to say certain things and sometimes I accept those terms; other times I decline and turn down the job. Following those guidelines is about respecting the people that have employed you and the audience that you are playing to. Not to follow the requests demonstrates a lack of consideration.
I understand a comedian has a contrary compulsion to use words that you have been asked not to – both in this specific context and words that society deems taboo. It is that drive to be childish that unites comedians.
However, the word "nigger" is not merely a naughty swear word. It is a loaded word with a weight of history behind it.
Footballers know this. How often have black players been subject to that hateful chant from the terraces? And this is perhaps the last word that Stephen Lawrence heard as he lay bleeding to death on the pavement in Eltham. That was the word that Liam Stacey chose to use on Twitter to describe PFA dinner attendee Fabrice Muamba as he lay fighting for his life on the pitch after a heart attack. It is almost certainly the last word that many black men from Hunter's own hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, heard before they were lynched.
I know that many black people say they are reclaiming the word, but I don't agree with that. As Maya Angelou says, you can't claim back a word with so much hate behind it as you can't change its meaning.
Richard Pryor, arguably the best comedian of all time, stopped using the word after visiting Africa. I have just returned from South Africa and I am sure Pryor would have been disappointed to hear how widely it is used by comedians there. Yet one comic told me his red line was the word "kaffir", saying: "Our people have heard that word too often. It is too painful."
Hunter has been working in the UK for 17 years, and must surely have had at least some passing knowledge of football's issues with race.
So an annual dinner for footballers is no place to be performing this kind of material – or trying to raise issues of language in society. You do this in your own show where your name is on the ticket. That way people know what they are getting and if they get offended, then they have no one but themselves to blame.
I really hope that this incident hasn't set the fight against racism in football backwards; that some racist fan or player in future defends their use of the word because Hunter has said it. We saw this recently in Staffordshire when Christopher Jones was cleared of racial abuse after claiming to be a hip-hop fan, where the word is part of the lingua franca.
I was pleased to see Paul Elliott leave his role as the Football Association's ambassador for using the word "nigger". Everyone needs to be held to the same standard – even guests at the PFA dinner – if we are to kick racism out of football once and for all.