Report by James Cracknell
A victim of racial abuse at Chingford Rugby Club has spoken to the Echo about the incident.
Jerome Tuitt, a local football coach and former Leyton Orient youth prospect, was training with some young players on Lee Valley Playing Fields in July when a white man – later identified as a member of the rugby club who was maintaining their ground – approached them. A video posted to Facebook showed a brief verbal confrontation culminating in the man telling Jerome: “Because you’re black, I don’t want you training on this pitch.”
After the video was widely shared on social media, the rugby club posted several statements on its website confirming the racial abuser was a member and had been suspended. The matter was referred to both the Rugby Football Union (RFU), which decided to take no action, and the Metropolitan Police, which said it dropped its case because “the victim declined to make any formal allegations”.
Speaking to the Echo, Jerome explained how the incident affected him and why he didn’t want to see criminal action being taken. “I didn’t really want him in trouble, it’s not going to fix the issue,” Jerome said.
“I just want him to learn that we shouldn’t judge people by the colour of their skin. I don’t know how he grew up, maybe he grew up with a certain stereotype, maybe he needs help. He needs to realise this is not the way to think or behave. Maybe he needs to go on a race awareness course.
“We all make mistakes – we can all be helped. I try in my life to see the other side of people to understand why they do things.
“It is horrible that this is happening in 2020. It is not about white people versus black people, it is about ignorant people versus everyone else.”
Some on social media claimed the racial abuser in the video was being “sarcastic” but Jerome said: “People said he might have been sarcastic or joking or that I might have made him say those things – that is very hurtful. There is no amount of sarcasm that would make me be racist to someone, no-one can make me say that.”
Three weeks after the racist incident, Chingford RFC confirmed the man in the video had been banned from the club. In a statement, chair Francis Porter said: “The club took the immediate decision of suspending the member. The matter was referred to both the police and the RFU. These two organisations concluded that, after a full investigation, they would take no further action.
“Notwithstanding this, the club instigated its own disciplinary proceedings and concluded the individual was guilty of bringing the club into disrepute. As a result, the individual has had his membership withdrawn.
“The club have also taken action to ensure this sort of incident is never repeated. We will be amending our code of conduct to bring it in line with current legislation and good practice. We will also look at providing training and coaching to all staff and we will set up internal working groups who will hold regular meetings to improve awareness across the club.
“We trust and hope that there will be no repeat of this kind of behaviour, however in the event that there is something that causes concern to any visitor/member/staff we hope it will be brought to the immediate attention of the committee.
“We at the club now hope that we can put this matter behind us and continue in the fine tradition of being an inclusive club with a cohesive community spirit.”
Jerome remains upset at the way the club handled the incident. He said: “It would have been good to get an apology from Chingford Rugby Club but they haven’t contacted me.”
Jerome runs a project called Ken Tuitt Football Foundation, named after his late father. “I do talks in different schools about working hard and avoiding crime. I am a big advocate for talking about mental health.
“If I can lead by example and show the right way to handle these situations the people I coach will handle it well as well. All people need to come together to stop racism.”