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UK’s Tottenham soccer club no longer wants fan nickname offensive to Jews

Spurs calls on its supporters to ‘move on’ from referring to themselves as ‘Yid Army’ due to historically large Jewish following, says 94% of fans agree it can be offensive

Tottenham Hotspur fans wave flags ahead of the English Premier League soccer match against Manchester United at White Hart Lane stadium in London, on May 14, 2017. (Frank Augstein/AP)
Tottenham Hotspur fans wave flags ahead of the English Premier League soccer match against Manchester United at White Hart Lane stadium in London, on May 14, 2017. (Frank Augstein/AP)

LONDON — British soccer team Tottenham Hotspur said Thursday it no longer wants to be associated with a term for Jews that is considered offensive and has asked its fans to stop using it.

Supporters of Tottenham, a north London club that has traditionally drawn a large fan base from Jewish communities, have long described themselves as the “Yid Army.” Though of Yiddish origin as an ethnonym for Jewish people, the “Y-word” carries a “distinctly pejorative and antisemitic message,” according to the World Jewish Congress.

Following a review of the usage among some fans, Tottenham called on supporters to “move on” from it.

“As a club, we always strive to create a welcoming environment that embraces all our fans so that every one of our supporters can feel included in the matchday experience,” the club said. “It is clear the use of this term does not always make this possible, regardless of context and intention, and that there is a growing desire and acknowledgment from supporters that the Y-word should be used less or stop being used altogether.

“We recognize how these members of our fan base feel and we also believe it is time to move on from associating this term with our club.”

Tottenham pointed to the fact that some sports teams have recently made “appropriate changes to nicknames and aspects of their identities in recognition of evolving sentiment.”

It marked an about-turn for the premier league team which in 2019 had defended the use of the term “Yid Army” saying at the time its fans “have never used the term with any offense” and that “a reassessment of its use can only occur effectively within the context of a total clampdown on unacceptable antisemitism.”

Tottenham’s players celebrate a goal during the English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on February 9, 2022. (Alastair Grant/AP)

Last month, leading English rugby team Exeter Chiefs decided to replace their logo after critics complained that headdresses and “tomahawk chop” chants were dehumanizing.

In the United States, the Washington NFL franchise dropped its name in 2020 after decades of criticism, while the Cleveland baseball team became the Guardians last November and had earlier dropped its Chief Wahoo logo.

Tottenham has launched an online hub featuring content that will appear in matchday programs and call on fans to reassess their use of the term, as well as providing historical context as to why it can cause offense.

“The adoption of the Y-word by our supporters from the late 1970s was a positive response to the lack of action taken by others around this issue,” Tottenham said. “An increasing number of our fans now wish to see positive change again with the reduction of its use, something we welcome and shall look to support.”

The club’s survey of fans received more than 23,000 responses “with 94% acknowledging the Y-word can be considered a racist term against a Jewish person,” it said.

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