Twenty eight years ago yesterday, one of the worst ever footballing disasters took place at Hillsborough. Ninety six Liverpool Football Club fans left their homes to spend the afternoon watching their favourite team play in the FA Cup Semi-Final, but never came home. Their deaths a result of huge overcrowding at the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield ground, and a lack of immediate response from the police and emergency services due to poor management.
We all know the story of the ensuing years of fighting to have justice for the victims – and the final verdict that the dead that day had indeed been ‘unlawfully killed’ rather the victims of an unfortunate accident. Along the way, however, it was not just the victims, their families or those involved whose characters were sullied, but those of an entire city. Liverpool was painted as home to petty criminals who would steal from the dead, self-pitying idiots who would not accept fault for the incident or their supposed part in events that day. The main culprit for such slurs was Sun newspaper editor Kelvin Mackenzie, whose headline of The Truth stood above an article of complete untruths – that fans had urinated on the police, stolen from victims, got what they deserved. Mackenzie’s disdain for the truth and his apparent vendetta against Liverpool continues to this day. His recent article comparing Everton footballer, Ross Barkley who is part Nigerian, to a ‘gorilla’ and implying that the only rich people in Merseyside are footballers or drug dealers, shows an unapologetic and contemptuous mindset against a city who have never forgotten his lies.
Mackenzie was seemingly happy to write that Barkley was ‘dim’ – yet claims that he did not know the footballer was partly Nigerian, therefore excusing his ‘gorilla’ comment. One might presume a journalist should research facts before writing any article – Mackenzie thought he knew enough to opine about Barkley’s intelligence, yet says he did not know anything about his heritage? The racist and derogatory comments about Barkley and Liverpool as a whole suggest Mackenzie is more concerned with writing sensationalist rubbish than anything close to factual, a skill he has apparently not lost since 1989.
It may be twenty eight years since that sunny day in Sheffield turned in to a day of terrible sorrow and injustice, and Liverpool may have finally received the legal verdict it so desperately wanted for those who were lost – but the message that the city will not suffer in silence stands strong. Both Liverpool and Everton football clubs have both now decreed that Sun newspaper journalists are no longer welcome in their stadia or at news conferences, as a direct result of their continued affiliation with Kelvin Mackenzie. One might wonder why The Sun newspaper still continues to employ this man, and what it would take for them to reconsider his position with them?
The legacy of the Hillsborough disaster is not just that the ninety six victims will never be forgotten or that huge steps have been made to protect the public at large events – but also that the city of Liverpool will not tolerate their naysayers, or those who continue to spin lies about the city or the people who live there.
Not then, not now, not ever.
And that includes Kelvin Mackenzie.
(Image from Getty)