In the Nineties, Baddiel and Frank Skinner would ridicule footballers on the BBC show Fantasy Football League.
One repeat subject of their tormenting was Nottingham Forest player Lee, who Baddiel would portray as dim-witted while wearing a pineapple on top of his head to imitate Lee’s hairstyle. In one occasion, Baddiel wore Blackface while impersonating Lee.
The pair come face to face for Baddiel’s new documentary Jews Don’t Count, with Lee talking in a new interview about the frosty meeting.
“Before Baddiel, I was receiving abuse for my skin colour or ‘You’re not good enough’. I was desensitised to most abuse,” Lee told The Times. “But the situation with Baddiel was a whole new layer of abuse. Baddiel Blacked up.”
He added: “So many people were complicit. BBC2. It’s selling, it’s popular, we are all getting paid. It’s working. He wasn’t held to account.”
Lee said that the abuse was so bad it “traumatised” his children, he told his mother not to come to his games and he still gets people shouting “he’s got a pineapple on his head” 25 years later.
“To be a parent and witness your son go through that, to go to a stadium and listen to people abuse your child must be difficult,” he said.
Discussing the moment he and Baddiel met for the documentary, Lee said that it was “long overdue”.
“I’ve never seen him before until he walked in,” he said. “Timing is everything. He’s back in the public eye again… I understand fully he’s used this situation mostly to benefit the documentary. To move forward he needed to address this situation.
“With Baddiel, I wasn’t happy you’re making me out to be a clown, you’re trying to demean what I’m doing, and I’m not going to let it happen… I’m not a clown. I was violated on so many levels in those sketches. I felt I should be getting royalties I was on that show so often.”
He continued: “They were basically saying I was s*** in the programme. Then Baddiel comes in [to the studio] and tries to spin it and say, ‘I knew you were a brilliant player, blah, blah, blah.’
“He’s highly intelligent but how people process things in their mind is incredibly complex. He may not see the importance or relevance of blacking up but he would fully understand how it felt to be abused as a Jewish person. It’s now happening to him, the realisation: this is how I feel, that’s how Jason feels.”
Appearing on Good Morning Britain last week, Baddiel discussed the moment he met Lee.
“I shamefully impersonated Jason Lee in Blackface 25 years ago on Fantasy Football, and I felt that it was important, if I’m going to do a documentary about Jewish representation and minorities, that I should go and meet Jason and apologise and talk to him,” he said.
“At the end of the conversation, he talked passionately about how he’d like to stand up for Jews and fight antisemitism in football.”
Jews Don’t Count airs Monday 21 November at 9pm on Channel 4.