Regular readers of this here blog won’t be hugely surprised to be reading another piece about John Terry. After all, he has certainly been in the news again the last couple of days, hasn’t he?
Old Teflon is definitely a lucky boy to have been acquitted. The judge suggested that his story was extremely dubious, but he had stuck doggedly to it throughout proceedings and therefore he couldn’t really be found guilty. Terry’s consistency was seen as significant. Not exactly an endorsement of Terry’s innocence, is it? There is no doubt over the words used, the only doubt is whether Terry meant them as abuse. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by suggesting that Terry’s story is unlikely in the extreme. But that’s the benefit of having the money to hire the best defence team, I suppose. And having Ashley Cole as a character witness.
I was of the opinion when this whole episode blew up that it shouldn’t have gone to trial. Not because Terry didn’t use the term “fucking black cunt” as racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand. He did. My concern is that it wasn’t for the state to intervene in what should have been a matter for the FA and PFA. I’m instinctively uncomfortable with the state proscribing what is and isn’t acceptable to say, however repugnant it might be. It’s a slippy slope and banning views won’t kill them off. Quite the opposite in fact.
But I can’t welcome Terry’s acquittal. It isn’t a victory for free speech. It’s a victory for the racists, and a victory for a man I honestly believe is one of the luckiest in the world.
I normally treat the views of Garth Crooks with utter disdain. He is a blustering jackass who usually passes off mindless banality as profound thinking, and gets paid to do so. But his article in the Guardian on the issue is actually worth a read. This verdict is unquestionably one that sets back the struggle to rid the game, and society in general, of racist abuse. Black players, managers and officials will now question the point of coming forward with allegations when Terry is seen to get away with something that he has been caught on camera doing.
The FA, who are now coming under sustained pressure to take their own action, have completely disgraced themselves. There is no question that Rio Ferdinand was excluded from England’s Euro 2012 squad because of the issue. There is no question in my mind that Terry’s place in the squad should have been forfeit and there is no question that this issue shouldn’t have taken so long to resolve. It’s also pretty obvious that Anton Ferdinand has been under pressure from early on to drop the matter.
There have been rumblings that such well-remunerated players should not be making such a big deal of any racist abuse they are on the end of and that the game simply isn’t as bad as it was. We looked on the problems in Eastern Europe with smug disdain. This case has showed that that is complacent nonsense. In the first instance, there is no reason why anyone, however well-paid, should be abused on the basis of their race. People earning £100k+ a week can still be victims too.
Secondly this also has wider implications. As we have tried to suggest on this blog on numerous occasions previously, football is the prism through which many people view the world around them. And that means that tackling the issue of racism in the game has implications for society at large. That failure, as evidenced by the verdict in this case and the behaviour of the FA beforehand shows that racism is far from banished from the British psyche. The morons abusing messrs Cole and Young after their missed penalties against Italy will be emboldened by this verdict.
One final observation. I read in the reports that Terry had ‘supporters’ (i.e. Chelsea fans) waiting to greet and cheer him on outside court. It’s fair to say that we don’t have an enormously high opinion of Chelsea fans and the wider ‘cockney massive’ on this blog. But even I was shocked by the presence of a claque for a man who is so widely and justifiably reviled. What is the matter with these people? On what planet is this man worth supporting, by anyone?