• A Platter of Two Cents, by Aditya Tamar

Second Chances, English Football, and Sexual Harassment: A Knotty Question

Unless you’re a mathematician studying topological spaces, or a historian studying the esoteric subject of the importance of knots in cultural history, the first activity that comes to mind when we hear the word “knots” is tying the strings in the region between the Talus and the Metatarsals, confining them to a carefully constructed object whose dimensions, in modern vernacular has been associated with the proportionality in size of an organ whose protrusion has a completely different functionality. In other words, tying our shoelaces.

Beyond shoelaces, knots have also been part of a number of cultures. The Book of Kells, which contains the Four Gospels of the New Testament, is flush with intricate interlace designs and Celtic knots in vibrant colours. These knots, possessed of significant intrinsic beauty, were virtually ubiquitous in their symbolism for deeper philosophical denotation. One of the most famous knots, with a deep connection to Celtic art is the Trinity Knot – aka, the Triquetra.

While the Triquetra has myriad philosophical interpretations in various cultures, its most popular invocation is found in Christianity. The trifecta of the knot posit a reference to the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Neopaganism links it with the Triple Goddess – worshiped as the mother, maiden and crone – while pre-Christian Paganism articulates the three fundamental “forces” of nature – earth, fire and sky.

Another highly recognizable construction made with knot designs is the Celtic Cross. The cross, in Pagan traditions to symbolizes the four cardinal directions (aka, cartesian directions) and the meeting place of all divine energy. These are among the many examples that illustrate how deeper philosophical or religious meanings have been associated with abstract “geometric” constructions. In this article, your’s truly intends to associate a different meaning with knots – mistakes and wrongs committed by people, and their long term impact.

In order to understand the parallelism between knots and wrongs, let us consider the case of Adam Johnson, an English footballer convicted in March 2016 for sexual activity with a besotted 15 year old female fan. During his trial, Johnson pled guilty to one count of sexual activity with the fan and one charge of grooming while the jury cleared him of charges on another sexual activity. He was handed a 6 year sentence but was released on 22 March 2019 after serving half his sentence – the British Ministry of Justice does not comment on prisoner releases. A couple of weeks after his release, Johnson issued a public apology stating that he ‘deeply’ regrets his actions and wants to ‘concentrate on the future’.

From a footballing standpoint, the future of the former three lions star looked highly uncertain. After his conviction in 2016, Gordon Taylor, the Chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association stated that Adam had “damaged the reputation of football” and his chances of playing were “very remote”. A recent report of The Daily Mail noted that all League One and League Two clubs in English football that lie within a reasonable commute from Johnson’s home in County Durham refused to even speak to him, let alone consider signing him. A move to a foreign league, such as the lucrative US Major League Soccer seemed unlikely due to the strict visa rules which bar sex offenders from entering the United States. Similar rules requiring declaration of any convictions stymie his move to Australia or the Middle East. Furthermore, Chris Coleman, the manager of the Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune also ruled out signing Adam Johnson, due to his criminal record.

In light of these reports and statements, it is important to ask the question: should football give Adam Johnson a second chance? Should society view Adam Johnson, the footballer, as distinct from Adam Johnson, the convicted sex offender? While the question might seem abhorrent at first, it brings into question the sporting community’s outlook towards such issues of societal relevance. For example, there has been documented evidence of the persistent problem of racism in English football (read more) right from the clubs in the lower divisions, to the players in the top tier of English football, the Premier League. However, the community has failed to chastise players involved in such incidents. Official penalties range from relatively meager fines or a ban for a few games – insignificant in the larger scheme of things. Such mild rebuke remains sustainable because fans seem to place a higher priority on the “footballer” than his moral credo. While an argument can be made over the differences between the acts of racism and sexual offence, the concern remains over the variability in society’s moral compass towards such acts.

Now, we can consider that every individual has control over a long rope which can be used to make an infinite permutation and combination of maneuvers that can affect its topological structure. Over the continuum of one’s life, certain maneuvers can lead to the formation of knots, similar to certain decisions leading to mistakes.

When an unbiased observer decides to inspect the knot, he/she can choose to carefully peruse the intricacies of the knot and based on the nature of the knot make a judgement on whether it can be untied or not. In other words, whether the mistake can be forgiven or (k)not. However, if looked at from a sufficiently large distance, the knot will appear as minor bump and the rope will indeed seem usable. If the knot is indeed impossible to untie, the question that we should ask ourselves is in what instances we wish to stay close enough to castigate the knot and when are we willing to go far enough to consider the knot to be a minor bump in one’s continuum of actions.

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About the Author

Aditya Tamar is a final year Electronics and Communications Engineering student at SRM IST, Kattankulathur, Tamil Nadu. He has had an excellent academic record throughout his schooling and has been actively involved in a number of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Aditya aspires to be an Astrophysicist, and when he is not getting sucked into solving fundamental questions related to Black Holes (pun intended) and Galaxies, he actively takes part in Model UN Conferences and Debates. Furthermore, he is an avid football fan, with his allegiance currently being split between his favourite player and his favourite club. Aditya has always had a penchant for world politics and in his articles, you can expect cogency in analysis and research.

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