A man with learning disabilities has called on the Football Association (FA) and Premier League club West Ham United to act over an alleged incident where fans chanted terms that are offensive to people with learning disabilities.
Ismail Kaji (pictured), Parliamentary affairs assistant at Mencap, has written a letter of complaint to the FA and West Ham about the alleged incident, which happened on Sunday, February 22 at White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspur. There, a group of West Ham fans allegedly chanted that Tottenham striker Harry Kane “talks like a mong and plays like one too.”
In his letter, Kaji said: “As someone with a learning disability, and a big football fan myself, this makes me feel upset and angry. I would be ashamed to support any club who condones the use of this sort of offensive language by its fans.
“Nobody would like to be called names like this, whether they have a disability or not.
“West Ham United has many fans with and without a learning disability who will be offended by this incident and who will demand the club takes strong action.
“This language is just as bad as using racist or homophobic words and I hope the Football Association and West Ham United treat this as seriously.
“I would like to see West Ham United and the Football Association investigate this incident and take strong action against any fans who they find have used this language. I would also like these fans to be helped to understand how offensive language affects people with a learning disability.”
This incident has been highlighted by former player turned pundit Kevin Kilbane, whose daughter has Down’s syndrome. Kilbane has also made a complaint to the FA about the alleged incident.
Speaking to Radio 5Live, Kilbane said: “Up until the seventies, people with Down's Syndrome weren't accepted within society and were locked away in institutions and not given any sort of rights whatsoever. I felt compelled as a father to speak to the FA - and there were a number of other complaints submitted too.”
Since then, Kilbane has been subjected to abuse on Twitter from some people, who dismissed the incident as just “banter”, along with other personal insults.
The Down’s Syndrome Association – which Kilbane is a patron of – has supported his action. “Insulting and offensive language about people with Down’s syndrome has no place in our society. We will never stop our work to change negative perceptions of people with Down’s syndrome,” the charity said in a statement.