A Petition in Honor of Walter Tull

Jan Kruger

Walter Tull was a trailblazer, a breaker of barriers, the first black outfield player in professional English football and the first black officer in the British army. That's why the entrance tunnel at the new stadium should bear his name.

I've written about Walter Tull on this site before. He's become something of a talismanic figure around the CFC offices. After all, Tull was not only the first outfield black player to be fielded by a professional English team, (our team, Tottenham Hotspur, in 1909), he was also the first black officer in the English army despite the Manual of Military Law strictly forbidding such commissions.

Walter Tull is a hero, a trailblazer, a once-in-a-lifetime figure. And yet, despite the barriers Tull broke again and again, and despite overcoming extreme adversity, both in terms of his personal life (Tull was an orphan) and his professional life (the racist abuse he received while playing was constant and savage), Walter Tull is only now really receiving the recognition he deserves.

Tull only played 10 matches for Spurs, scoring twice before being dropped to the reserves. The reason for his demotion is unclear; some suggest Spurs management dropped Tull to spare him abuse, while Garth Crooks suggests it was a face-saving gesture on the part of the club. Regardless of the reasons, Tull was sold to Northampton Town in 1910, and he played 110 matches for that club before joining the Footballer's Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in 1917. He fought, returned to England to battle post-traumatic stress disorder, returned to France and was killed leading his men in the second Battle of the Somme. His body was never recovered.

A statue to Tull has been erected outside Northampton's grounds, and their MP is working to convince David Cameron to award the Military Cross to Tull posthumously. (Once again Tull inspires a challenge to the rules, as apparently you're not allowed to give the Military Cross posthumously.) There is a petition at change.org asking Cameron to consider Tull for the Military Cross; you can sign that petition here.

But that's not the petition we here at CFC want to talk to you about. We've created a petition asking Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to name the entrance tunnel in the new stadium in honor of Walter Tull.

We've zeroed in on the entrance tunnel for its symbolic significance. After all, the tunnel literally provides access to the pitch. Tull, in his day, cut a path through cultural privilege and racism for others to follow; we therefore think it fitting to honor Tull in the architectural feature that physically manifests those ideas.

We've written more about Tull, and our hopes about what such a gesture might mean, both for his legacy and the legacy of the club he played for, albeit briefly. We're not interested in self-congratulation on the part of the club or its fans; rather, we hope such a gesture will draw attention to the continuing work we all must do to preserve and expand opportunities for diversity and inclusion in all walks of life, including football. Racism, sexism, homophobia; these blights don't dissipate if we wear "Kick It Out" t-shirts or name a tunnel after a cultural icon. Rather, they dissipate only when we take the underlying values of such gestures seriously, and if we do so on a daily basis.

You can sign our petition here: A petition to name the entrance tunnel to the pitch at the new stadium after Walter Tull. And if you feel so compelled, you can share the petition with other Spurs supporters - or anyone who cares about football - via email, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for considering this petition, everyone. We appreciate your time. COYS.

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