Those of us who follow Newcastle United have long known that our now fourth-choice centre back has a penchant for the crushingly stupid. It was no surprise, then, when Steven Taylor yesterday did the most Steven Taylor thing Steven Taylor has ever done. 

Responding to a tweet from his defensive partner Massadio Haïdara, in which Haïdara poked fun at ‘Tayls’ for his abortive efforts to learn French, Taylor tweeted this.

Perhaps it was an unorthodox, last-ditch attempt to gain a place in the England squad, what with Roy ‘Space Monkey’ Hodgson in charge, “Brave” John Terry a recent captain, and Jack ‘England for the English’ Wilshere in midfield. Or perhaps Taylor is just being racist. On balance, the latter’s probably more likely.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why the tweet was problematic: a white man mocking four black men (‘you guys’), unprompted, with obscene blackface caricatures is, to use the common parlance, Not OK. But even more troubling has been the reaction.

Taylor himself apologised, though it was an apology of the mealy-mouthed, ‘sorry if I offended anybody’ variety. The media, though broadly condemnatory, have echoed the very stereotypes Taylor evoked in the first place: the Telegraph report speaks of an ‘African tribesman’, and the Guardian, bizarrely, references ‘African tribal clothes.’ And on Twitter, football fans queue up to justify the tweet in the name of that ultimate catchall excuse: banter. No doubt when Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse was subjected to racist abuse on Facebook after he initially refused to wear the logo of a loan-shark company on his shirt, that too was just good banter.

The English press joke that Newcastle have signed so many “French” players in the past couple of years that they should be renamed “Nouveau Château United”, but in fact many of those players are Francophone Africans: Haïdara, Cisse, Yanga-Mbiwa, Tiote, Bigirimana, Sissoko. If Steven Taylor’s tweet is what passes for “banter,” the Newcastle dressing room must be a miserable place.

Oh, and if you really want to experience the crushingly stupid, check this out.

Come on, football, you’re better than this.