BBC Breakfast row: Naga’s tense racism debate with John Barnes sparks Twitter frenzy

BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty became embroiled in a tense debate with John Barnes on today’s show as they spoke about racism in sport.

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Former footballer John was praised by BBC viewers for his responses when challenged with some rather difficult questions from Naga.

John revealed there had been an increase of racist incidents in football in the Premier League and he wasn’t at all surprised.

He told Charlie and Naga: “I have always said, tackle it in society and football will follow, not the other way around.”

But Naga asked: “Is it not intensified in a football ground?”

John fired back: “Why it is intensified is because in everyday life, you are not called upon to make a judgement of a person walking along the road, or in a shop, whereas in a football stadium, you are called upon to support your team, and abuse the opposition.”

Naga chipped in: “Well, you are not called upon to abuse the opposition.”

“You are – not racially,” John clarified. “But when you have the unconscious bias, it raises its ugly head in positions or either tension or conflict that is when the unconscious bias comes out.

“Fans who were racially abusing Raheem Sterling, for example, if they were to see him in a restaurant they won’t racially abuse him.”

BBC host Naga continued, asking: “But there’s a difference, without being too pernickety, there is a difference between unconscious biased and outright racism isn’t there?

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“And that’s the problem that is coming out on the pitch, on and off the pitch.”

“Of course,” John agreed. “But, these are people who are members of society, football fans aren’t separate – you are a normal member of society and then you carry your discrimination practices into football, or wherever you go, so football can do nothing about that.

“Football can say, for 90 minutes, keep your mouth shut, and what can football do to change the rest apart from saying you are not allowed into the stadium. What we have to do is change people’s perception.”

Naga remarked: “Well football can’t do that…”

“Exactly!” John replied.

BBC Breakfast viewers were quick to praise John for his appearance on the show.

“Huge credit to @officialbarnesy for pinpointing the underlying causes of racism in football and showing a clear-sighted understanding of what’s happening in Britain today that, quite frankly, made the #bbcbreakfast broadcasters questioning him look like children,” one viewer wrote on Twitter.

Another added: “John Barnes running rings around the usual platitudes and cliches from Stayt and Munchety.”

A third shared: “”John Barnes speaking absolute sense this morning and always has done when it comes to racism at football.”

BBC Breakfast airs weekdays on BBC One at 6am.

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