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Manchester United Players

Things aren’t always Black & White, Rio

Racism. It just won’t go away will it. The game of football is currently blighted by incidents of racism both on and off the pitch.

In my view none of the accused in the highest profile cases over the last 12 months have a leg to stand on despite their best, and frankly hard faced, efforts.

Luis Suarez (you know what you are) repeatedly racially abused Patrice Evra and no amount of cultural difference arguments will ever convince me otherwise. Rightly so he was punished heavily in terms of suspension (8 games) but given a fairly lightweight fine of approximately £45k. The case was dealt with swiftly and put to bed by mid December a mere 2 months later, job done, well done The FA (for a change).

Just eight days after that incident, John Terry was clearly seen to racially abuse Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road in a bad tempered London Derby between QPR and Chelsea but Twelve months on and the now lengthy case had been adjourned and delayed but finally Terry was lawfully found ‘Not Guilty’ (where ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ could obviously not be concluded) but thankfully The Football Association did sanction Terry punishing him with the heaviest fine they’ve ever issued – £220k – but coupled it with a somewhat lenient 4 game ban.

Firstly, how the two cases can conclude with entirely opposite outcomes in terms of one having a larger fine and smaller suspension (& vice-versa) is beyond me, surely the offences are similar in vein and worthy of proportional punishment? Hit them both with games; money means almost nothing to these people and the clubs would take it far more seriously.

The players’ respective clubs both failed to react in appropriate ways during and after the cases too. In Suarez’s case the shocking decision to allow or recommend the players to don t-shirts in defence of him was comical at best, ill-advised possibly, but more widely agreed; shocking.

In Chelsea’s case they’re showing their support for the player by allowing Terry to continue as club captain despite issuing him with their own record fine.

So, what’s all this got to do with a Manchester United Blog regardless of Evra’s association in the original incident?

That’s the exact question that beg’s the question why Rio Ferdinand felt the need to publicly go against the wishes of his boss by choosing not to wear the anti-racism T-Shirt for Kick It Out before United’s match against Stoke City on Saturday. He, along with United during the Evra affair, behaved impeccably and hardly batted an eyelid in comparison when the Suarez case was ongoing, so why the burning desire now?

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not in any way suggesting Ferdinand should keep his opinions to himself or that he’s wrong to make his feelings known or make a point in an attempt to rid the game of its obvious problem or for feeling further aggrieved due to his brothers involvement, far from it. However, I believe there’s a time and a place for every protest and that wasn’t it.

On Thursday Sir Alex went on record when questioned about Jason Roberts’ statement of intent not to wear the t-shirt saying he thought “everyone should stick together on this” and “it would be the wrong thing to do” [not wear it]. Once he’s said that, Rio Ferdinand (or any other player at the club for that matter) has absolutely no way of not conforming purely on the basis that, at some time in our professional lives, we have to adhere to our employers wishes weather we like it or not, it’s that simple.

Rio could and should have taken the decision to administer his protest at a later date, at a time more suitable. We’re talking about Rio ‘Choc-Ice Remark’ Ferdinand here, the guy’s hardly been at the forefront of the Kick It Out campaign to my knowledge despite being part of it, so why the sudden, irresistible urge to stand up?

Wear the t-shirt, play the game, move on to Monday then publicly and vehemently begin your campaign to improve the original campaign or build one of your own that’s bigger and better with more impact with other players and sporting or celebrity figures included for the good of all involved. What’s difficult about that?

Instead, Rio foolishly in my opinion, chose to risk derailing his clubs ambitions and internal stability for the sake of 48hrs and some cheap publicity. With Rio’s undoubted influence within the entire club at all levels from the canteen staff right the way through the Academy lads and the first team dressing room, his actions have the ability to create huge tensions and divides amongst all if he wishes. How chuffed then would Mssrs Terry and Suarez be, not to mention their respective clubs and fans? Was the risk worth taking at that time?

Rio will be understandably pissed right off with his treatment by the FA and England management etc, pissed off his little brother’s been racially attacked and pissed off racism seems to be on the increase rather than diminishing, but still, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Where does it leave Rio now?

I’m glad United are not ramping up the issue by fining Rio (or at least I don’t think they are at time of writing this), that would be the wrong thing to do, but I am glad Sir Alex didn’t fudge the issue when quizzed. What a position to find yourself in thanks to someone with the experience to know better and the benefit of having been previously backed in the past. Poor decision Rio, poor decision.

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