I DON’T know why it’s different, but it is.
You may recall that back in 2004 former Aston Villa manager Ron Atkinson was heard using a racist slur against a black player while working on a game for ITV.
That was pretty much that for Big Ron on the broadcasting front. Having been recorded dropping the N-bomb on Chelsea’s Marcel Desailly, his days as a commentator were over.
There were to be no more spotter’s badges handed out, no more Hollywood balls to be scoffed at and no new members to be welcomed into the wide-awake club.
Big Ron shuffled off into enforced retirement, leaving unanswered the question of whether he was the only racist in the gantry – or just the only unlucky racist in the gantry.
Seven years on and a strikingly similar misfortune has befallen two of Sky Sports’ leading lights.
Thinking their remarks were going unrecorded, pundit Andy Gray and anchor Richard Keys let rip against lineswoman Sian Massey in the run-up to the Wolves versus Liverpool game on Saturday.
“Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her,” said Mr Keys. “Women don’t know the offside rule,” added his Scottish chum.
Their remarks were as pleasant as they were accurate, as Ms Massey went on to make a tight offside call correctly in the run-up to Liverpool’s first goal.
It seems she can judge offside a little better than some of the men in the Wolves defence.
But the gruesome twosome didn’t just disparage a female linesman.
Moving on to a newspaper column that day by West Ham’s vice-chairman, Mr Keys asked Mr Gray: “See the charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love.”
I have to say I love those last five words. What does Mr Keys mean by “do me a favour, love”?
Is he trying to say that Ms Brady is wrong to say there is sexism in football? If that was his meaning, then he contradicted his own argument with his dismissive language.
“Do me a favour, love” – it’s worthy of the great Alan Partridge.
Sky banned Messrs Gray and Keys from working on Monday night’s game between Bolton and Chelsea after their comments came to light – though some would argue that was a reward rather than a punishment.
Then yesterday the broadcaster announced that the burly ex-Scotland striker had been given the boot when further evidence of his prehistoric attitude to women emerged.
But his sexist side-kick remains in Sky’s employ. A phone call to Ms Massey to apologise appears to have saved Mr Keys’s skin.
If I was Big Ron – and thank God I’m not – I’d be sat at home in a massive sheepskin jacket moaning at the injustice of the world. When he was caught airing his bigoted views, there was no chance an apology could save him, as it seems to have rescued Mr Keys.
But why? Is sexism really less odious than racism? Is it worse to judge someone by the colour of the skin than by the contents of their shorts?
Why should the exposure of one form of bigotry be a resigning matter, while the other merely lands you an enforced day off and a contrite phone call?
I don’t know the answer to this, but I think Sky were right not to sack their sexist anchor.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as politically correct as the next man (or woman, of course) but even I don’t believe that Mr Keys should be dismissed for his remarks.
Castigated, yes. Pointed at in the street, maybe. But sacked? I think that’s taking it a bit too far.
Yet I can’t come up with a good reason why sexism should be considered slightly less bad than racism.
They are both forms of prejudice based on ignorance and stupidity. They are both potentially deadly in their more extreme versions.
But racism seems that little bit more unacceptable, that small amount viler – just enough to take it from a disciplinary matter to a sacking offence.