Terry affair must not derail battle to defeat racism… so let's stop the schism
01:15 GMT, 29 September 2012
It's not a simple case of black and white. It never is. The John Terry ban, the ongoing controversy and the trail of deceit and contradiction this circus has left behind surely demonstrates that to us all.
The row has predictably divided fans on club lines. But far more worrying is the talk that certain black players now believe their interests can only be served within the game by the creation of their own separate players' union.
The rebels are even threatening to
orchestrate a boycott of the FA's Kick It Out anti-racism campaign in
protest at the 'lenient' ban dished out to Terry. What a dreadful call
that would be.
Bitter irony: John Terry (left) and Ashley Cole promote the FA's anti-racism campaign
It might not be as overtly ignorant
as Terry's foul-mouthed tirade at Loftus Road, but the decision would
have ramifications which could be far more damaging in the long term.
Terry's four-game suspension is
undoubtedly soft on the face of it, not least because of the precedent
set by the eight-match ban served by Luis Suarez for a comparable
But those black players agitating for
a breakaway (mostly ex-pros in the media, I hear) should at least
recognise that the game has acted where the courts could not.
It may not be enough for some, but
then it is hard to recall a single occasion when any FA verdict was met
by universal acclaim.
More importantly, however
well-intentioned the motives, I can think of nothing more
counterproductive, nothing designed to take football backwards after
years of progress, than an official schism within the game drawn up on
As far as I'm concerned, Terry spun a
yarn from day one about his clash with Ferdinand, did his damnedest to
wriggle out of admitting fault, found he could not back down, but got
lucky in court because there was no additional camera evidence.
The fact that he finally received an
overdue slap from the FA this week is to be commended. That doesn't mean
the issue isn't riddled with discrepancies, self-interest,
misinformation and now a fair share of political posturing, too. But let
me set out my wider position.
I'm bewildered by the concept of
racial prejudice. Why would you automatically dislike someone just
because of the colour of their skin, when it is far better to take the
time to understand their personality and find genuine reasons to despise
Which leads me back to Terry. I have a
problem with the sort of human being who would throw about racist
insults, dissemble about the circumstances in which they were exchanged
and then portray himself as some kind of 'victim' in the aftermath.
Did he use disgusting words on a football pitch Yes. So did Ferdinand, but Terry veered into issues of race.
Should we condemn Terry for that Definitely. Was the alibi that he was only repeating what he'd heard plausible Not remotely.
So the FA had to punish Terry, even
though the courts could not. If they had followed the magistrate's lead,
every racist insult exchanged on a pitch could be excused by a claim
that 'I was only repeating what I thought he'd said to me'.
Loophole lawyers would have been all over it.
Even so, Terry's management company
still released a slippery statement claiming: 'Mr Terry is disappointed
the FA Regulatory Commission reached a different conclusion to the clear
not guilty verdict of a court of law.'
A 'clear not guilty verdict' When
did that happen I recall the chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, saying in
his summary: 'Mr Terry's explanation is, certainly under the cold light
of forensic examination, unlikely … but there being a doubt, the only
verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.'
The only 'clear' aspect is the court
let Terry go because they could not prove unequivocally he had used the
word 'black' as a direct insult. But the FA could rely on the 'balance
of probability', which is essentially common sense.
'Footage don't lie': Anton Ferdinand (left) broke his silence on the Terry verdict on Twitter
As Ferdinand himself blurted
ungrammatically on Twitter yesterday: 'Footage don't lie'. And like that
mangled sentence, the FA response may not be perfect, but they were
able to react in a manner beyond the court's power.
Of course other inconsistencies
remain. While it is admirable that the FA is being proactive on the
issue of racial abuse, it is unfortunate their hierarchy is about as
ethnically diverse as a country and western music festival.
They will also have to come up with
some forceful logic in their written report to explain why Terry was
handed a four-match ban when Liverpool's Suarez was initially suspended
for 12, reduced to eight on appeal.
I'd like to think the difference in
sentencing was down t o Liverpool's crass decision to inflame tensions
and parade in Suarez T-shirts as the FA considered its verdict.
Unfortunately, right now it just
looks like they may have bottled it. Terry has been encouraged to
apologise, but for what For being caught The time for Terry to say
sorry was when footage first emerged of him shouting 'you f****** black
****' at an opponent.
Any line he peddles now, nearly a year on, would look ridiculous.
We can get bogged down in the
four-game ban, and hold up other punishments, but the stigma of being
branded a racist is nigh-on impossible to shake.
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But colour isn't the whole issue. Or
it shouldn't be. Character is also part of the mix. John Barnes has some
fascinating views on this subject.
I don't agree with everything he
says, but Barnes was astute when he told Keys and Gray on talkSPORT on
Friday: 'We're just getting better at hiding racism. All Terry had to do
was keep his mouth shut. That's where we are.'
Even discussing issues of race in the
media can be a problem. And although I continually hear people talk
about zero tolerance, it's usually more textured than that. As Barnes
says, black people can be racists too.
'If I saw an Indian football manager
walk into a dressing room wearing a turban I would question him more
than i f a white, blue-eyed German boss turned up be cause of our
cultural expectations,' he admits.
'Ninety-nine per cent of us, me
included, are unconscious racists, because we have an opinion on someone
based on history, what we have witnessed, and what we've seen on
television. We all think it, but don't hear it any more.'
True. But, as I have argued with
Barnes in the past on air, if we don't hear it then surely that's a
start. The ex-Liverpool player rightly wants to tackle the 'root causes'
of racism rather than its audible expression, but this takes time.
Dealing with the abuse and making
that socially unacceptable is a vital step along the way. When Rio
Ferdinand retweeted a comment that Ashley Cole was a 'choc ice' – black
on the outside, white on the inside – to me, he was effectively
endorsing a racist remark.
What does 'white on the inside mean'
anyway Cole is the same inside as you or me. You can decide whether you
like him or not, but his 'race' has nothing to do with it.
People are now wondering whether
Terry could ever play for England again. It would be tough for him. But
do we damn people forever for one stupid and offensive remark
Suarez still plays for Uruguay. Is it
racist to assume they apply a lower standard there The fact that Terry
has huffed off the international stage actually solves a selection
dilemma for Roy Hodgson.
Football is a gigantic, rainbow-hued
game of Twister. It's not perfect, but the sport is about as near to a
United Colours of Benetton advert as we have in mainstream society.
There should be more black managers at the top, but that change will
filter through in time.
It might need a push, but it will
happen. Yet, despite the occasional flare-up and its obvious flaws, we
should recognise that the stars of this sporting show are paid on merit,
regardless of colour or social class.
They are rewarded for ability, not
their schooling, their ancestry, or the fact that they can afford to get
into a club, or the colour of their skin. Name another industry that is
quite as open to all Football is our greatest melting pot. So melt a
Please just stick to the golf
There may be a more lifeless opening ceremony in existence than the ritual the Ryder Cup organisers exhume and dump on a cold slab every two years, but I've yet to sprinkle quicklime on it.
Watching a tweed-clad Justin Timberlake host the occasion in Medinah as if he were at an undertakers' convention in Bracknell was simply excruciating, and the last vestige of any street cred he may have possessed dropped faster than a portfolio of Facebook shares.
Dressed like an undertakers' convention in Bracknell: Justin Timberlake hosts the Ryder Cup bash
So a word of advice before Gleneagles 2014: cut the speeches from the array of boring suits. Cut the utterly pointless procession of wives. Just introduce the players, get a decent band to knock out a couple of tunes, make sure Trevor Nelson is kept as far away from any microphone as possible, and then set off some fireworks.
There's your opening ceremony. Job done. Thank God there's some golf being played at last – because that is truly wonderful and full of life.
Pardew's worth it
A lot can happen in eight years. Roll back to 2004 and Charlton Athletic were playing Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
Cast in that light, Newcastle's decision to hand manager Alan Pardew and his backroom team contracts until 2020 might be regarded as the greatest show of blind faith since Elizabeth Taylor walked up the aisle for the eighth time. But I disagree. The club have laid down a solid foundation for success.
Apple computer genius and co-founder Steve Jobs knew a thing or two about empire-building and he said: 'Even a small thing takes a few years. 'To do anything of magnitude takes at least five years – more likely seven or eight.'
Pardew now has a rare chance to prove it.