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Tottenham Hotspur issues apology for “wholly unacceptable” survey question

It’s a start, but it’s a pretty corporate apology.

General Views of UK Sporting Venues Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images

On Tuesday, sharp-eyed Tottenham Hotspur supporters noted the presence of a sexist question in a survey sent out via email to “US-based” Spurs supporters. The question asked survey takers to rank the statement “A women’s place is in the home” on a scale that ranges from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree”. We posted our position on the question and its presence in a Tottenham-branded survey earlier today, condemning the use of the question and calling for the club to issue an apology.

This evening, BT Sport broke the news that the club has apologized for the the survey question through a club spokesman. Here is the full text of the apology:

“The survey questions were compiled by a third party on behalf of the club. The inclusion of this question in a club survey was wholly unacceptable and a regrettable oversight.”

“It has been immediately removed from the survey for any other fans now looking to fill this out.

“We sincerely apologise to anyone offended by its initial inclusion.”

This is a start, but I wish it went further. There’s a trend for corporations to issue “We’re sorry you’re offended by what we said” apologies instead of addressing the root causes of controversy, and that feels like what we have here. It just doesn’t feel wholly genuine.

Yes, the situation was pretty much what we though: the survey was created by a third-party marketing company and was released without the club properly vetting of all of the questions. Tottenham didn’t create the survey, but they did fail to execute proper oversight before they released it. The responsibility still falls on them.

Moreover, I still reject the idea that a question that begins with the premise that “a woman’s place is in the home” has any business whatsoever in a marketing survey about an English football team thats ultimate end goal is to sell things to American soccer fans. It has nothing to do with sports, and it’s insulting on multiple levels.

The phrase “wholly unacceptable and a regrettable oversight” is more than I expected, but it does not go as far as I had hoped. I would have preferred the club use language that explicitly calls the question sexist, acknowledges that what they did was wrong and had the capacity to hurt people. Because these kinds of situations do hurt, even if it is not the intention. Apologies lose their meaning when they are reduced to mere platitudes. If the club is sorry about what happened, it is okay to say why, and what it will do in the future to make sure it won’t happen again. Don’t say sorry, be sorry.

I accept the club’s apology. I still love Tottenham Hotspur. I do believe it regrets what happened. I want to believe it was a mistake. I also want to believe that Tottenham is a club that believes in tolerance and equality for all Spurs fans.

I just wish that they would make it easier for me to believe it.