Stigma of racism will be hard to shake off
DANIEL TAYLORis amazed at the leniency of the punishment
THE FIRST thing that hits you between the eyes is that you don’t get much for the odd bit of racial abuse, do you? Four games, to be precise. Just one more than the usual ban for a bad tackle and red card. Or, to put it another way, half the punishment Luis Suarez received when another of the Football Association’s independent commissions decided he had repeatedly called Patrice Evra “negro” during an argument when Manchester United played at Anfield last season.
Fewer, too, than the case of Ruesha Littlejohn, a Liverpool Ladies player who made some comments on her Twitter account that the FA deemed in May as “including a reference to sexual orientation”. The chances are you have never heard of this case.
Littlejohn, now of Glasgow City, got six games.
It seems strange that the FA can decide John Terry directed a stream of vile abuse – we all know the words by now – in the direction of an opponent, and that it is barely more serious than the average red-card offence, with a fine of not much more than a week’s wages thrown in.
Terry, naturally, will cling to his warped belief that he is the victim, not Anton Ferdinand, and we have already witnessed from the Suarez case how inside the football bubble there will be a stampede of people reassuring him that they believe every word and it is all a witch hunt – for no other reason, very often, than because they happen to follow his football team.
Yet the truth, unmistakably, is that Terry has been fortunate. The FA’s commission had the chance to impose the kind of sanction that does justice to the idea that racism is, to use Terry’s own words earlier this summer, as deplorable as it gets and that football won’t tolerate it. It went for leniency instead.
That is not the way Terry will see it, of course, when the FA’s investigators have not been deterred by the verdict from Westminster magistrates court in July and, true, the damage will be considerable in other ways, in terms of his standing, the way he is judged and what it means for him over the rest of his career.
Men of supreme arrogance have a tendency never to admit wrongdoing but, from here, it does not matter how many people his lawyers produce to talk about what a nice guy he really is and how, again, it is all one big misunderstanding. His reputation has suffered potentially irreparable damage with this judgment. Chelsea’s captain used to be nicknamed “Teflon Terry” because of the way nothing ever stuck and every accusation of potentially dodgy behaviour – allegedly charging £10,000 (€12,500) for a training-ground tour, the apparent touting of his executive box at Wembley, and all the rest – was explained away as crossed wires or some innocent mistake. No more. The stigma of racism is attached to Terry like a tick on the side of a dog.