Hibernian manager Neil Lennon has launched a staunch rebuttal to claims that he brings controversy on himself. His words come after the former Celtic player was hit by a coin during his side's 0-0 draw with Hearts on Wednesday.
In a press conference, Lennon talked about the incident, and called the way he has been targeted in the past as motivated by his race:
You call it sectarianism. I call it racism. You call it sectarianism here in Scotland, I call it racism. If a black man is abused, you're not just abusing the colour of his skin - you're abusing his culture, heritage, his background.
It's the exact same when I get called a Fenian, a pauper, a beggar, a tarrier. These people have a sense of entitlement, or a superiority complex, and all I do is stand up for myself.
I am a footballer, not a criminal.
Lennon refuted the notion that he 'goads people' into these personal attacks, citing an effigy that was present at Tynecastle before the game which read 'hang Neil Lennon':
Did I bring that on myself? You're all saying no, because you're right-minded people, you're decent people. So this has got to stop. Everyone says I play the victim - I don't. People will be blinkered and say, 'it's his fault, he's aggressive'. I'm reactive. When I step in the stadium, they're already up to fever pitch because I'm in there.
This has got to stop. Everyone says I play the victim. I don’t. I had 15 years in England of nothing, so the first day I step into Scotland this sort of stuff began. And it’s not because I’m an aggressive character. You all know me. I’m not aggressive at all. I’m competitive, sometimes I cross the line just like any normal manager. So this ‘brings it on himself’, I’m very angry about those comments.
The 47-year-old called for a change of attitude, mentioning that people associated with Rangers suffer from abuse too:
This is the mentality that needs to change. It's embarrassing. It makes me very angry. But I'm just one person, so I need more people to come out and call it as it really is. I'm fed up of laughing it off and shoving it aside.
Every week we hear the songs at stadiums - that's got to be stomped out. People don't want to do it, saying we can't do anything about it - you can, if you really want to.
I'm not the only one to suffer from sectarian abuse, plenty of people at Rangers suffer from it too and I think it's disgusting in this day and age. It's racism. Sometimes it's worse here than it is back home.
Lennon called for those responsible for personal attacks to be 'punished severely' and 'embarrassed publicly' as a deterrent for their behaviour.