Why Rio Ferdinand not wearing a "Kick it out" T shirt was wrong?
The FA's inconsistencies in dishing out punishments
Rio Ferdinand’s refusal to wear a Kick it out T shirt yesterday was not only a slap in the face to his manager Sir Alex, but more importantly a backhander in the fight against racism.
Henry Winter wrote in the Telegraph yesterday:
"The anger felt by Ferdinand and Roberts is partly rooted in the size of the ban given to John Terry, who was found guilty by an Independent Regulatory Commission of making a racist remark to Ferdinand’s brother, Anton."
So is there any basis to their argument? Looking at the punishments handed out to John Terry and Rio Ferdinand for the same offence the answer would appear to be no and the two cases illustrate huge inconsistencies in the punishments handed out by the FA, but not in the way that Jason Roberts and Clarke Carlisle are suggesting.
Before comparing the Terry and Ferdinand cases, let’s deal with the argument that Terry should have received an 8 match ban in keeping with Luiz Suraez. The Terry commission concluded:
"In contrast with a previous high profile FA disciplinary case involving racial abuse, Mr. Terry’s racist insult was issued only once. Although once is clearly once too many, the Commission accepts that it was said in the heat of the moment. Had it been said more than once, the entry point penalty would have applied to successive insults. Taking into account all of the relevant factors, and balancing them in the scales, the Commission took the view that a suspension from competitive matches involving Chelsea’s first team for four matches was an appropriate sanction, together with an index-linked financial penalty of £220,000."
Carlisle and Roberts copmlain that Terry got off lightly, but let’s contrast Terry’s 4 match ban with the penalty handed out to Rio. Having been found not guilty in a court of law for the same offence, Terry was then found guilty by the FA under a disciplinary procedure that finds 99.5% of all culprits guilty. It is a procedure that has been labelled a joke by one of the FA’s own compliance officers and Henry Winter asserts it was an independent commission, yet two of the three magistrates were FA employees.
In the Ferdinand case, Rio replied to a tweet stating that Ashley Cole was a Choc Ice, a well known offensive racial term. Rio Ferdinand replied “Choc ice is a classic hahahahahahha,”
Ferdinand was charged under the same rule John Terry was later charged under and the commission in the Ferdinand case reports:
"The admissions (Ferdinand’s) are clear breaches of Rule E3 (1) and E3 (2). The aggravating factor will serve to increase the penalty.”
They then concluded:
"A number of factors have to be considered in determining the penalty. This is Mr Ferdinand's first offence. He has a clear disciplinary record and has a track record in fronting anti racism campaigns in football. It was in response to a tweet rather than an original treat. A breach of FA rule E3 (2) leads to a doubling of the starting point. The mitigating features outlined above reduce the penalty by approximately 25%. The order of the Regulatory commission is: - Mr Ferdinand is fined the sum of £45,000.“
Ferdinand earns way in excess of £100, 000 a week so presumably the commission decided his penalty should be approximately 50% of one weeks wages, which begs the question, why was their statement: ”The aggravating factor will serve to increase the penalty?” ignored and a lenient punishment issued. Under the circumstance you could have understood if they had chosen to make an example of someone who has racially abused another player, considering his behaviour made a mockery of his previous well publicised anti racist stance. Somewhat, surprisingly they actually reduced his punishment due to the mitigating features.
Where was the righteous indignation from Jason Roberts and Clarke Carlisle after Rio's initial tweet and the verdict? If either of them had commented on the leniency of the punishment or even came out and criticised Ferdinand I could sympathise totally with their current view, but you cannot have your cake and eat it. You cannot condemn an organisation when it treats a mixed race player leniently, yet heavily penalises a white player under similar circumstances. I am in no way condoning the actions of Rio Ferdinand or John Terry, if he was lying. There is no place for racism in society, full stop, but Roberts and Carlisle made a rod for their own back when they failed to publically condemn Ferdinand or the FA for their leniency. Rio has shown no remorse and hasn't apologised to Colle yet even today Carlisle has been on Sky Sports news giving his full and unconditional support to Rio Ferdinand.
Terry and Ferdinand were both fined under the same regulation, yet Ferdinand got off lightly because in the commissions own words, it was his first offence under that rule; he has a clear disciplinary record; has done charitable work; he was replying to a tweet and has fronted anti racist campaigns.
Whether he was replying to a tweet or not should be irrelevant, by agreeing with the original view expressed (in very strong terms) and actually finding it funny Ferdinand was just as complicit as the originator of the comment. If one person says to another I can’t stand Chinese people just because they are Chinese and his mate replies, “yeah classic” and starts laughing, then it doesn’t leave much doubt that the 2nd person is just as guilty as the first of racism. As for Ferdinand’s work in the anti racist campaigns surely then being charged for a racial insult should have led to a bigger penalty rather that a lesser one.
At the time of the Ferdinand verdict no one was complaining about the leniency of the penalty handed out to Ferdinand and there were no threats to boycott the handshake by fellow players or threats to form their own union. There wasn’t a call for United to take any further action or a wave of righteous indignation that United hadn’t stripped him of the captaincy, in fact the only significant comment from Old Trafford came when Sir Alex complained that the FA only brought the case against Rio because of who he was.
John Terry was charged under the same breach of FA regulations as Rio Ferdinand. Let's consider those mitigating circumstances that led to the FA giving Ferdinand such a lenient punishment. It was also Terry's first offence under the rule; his disciplinary record is comparable to Ferdinand's and Sir David Richards, the Chairman of the FA Premier League testified before the commission as to Mr. Terry’s generosity when asked to contribute towards charitable causes. All very similar to the Ferdinand case so far and furthermore Terry had already been cleared in a court of law and in the commission’s own words was reacting under severe provocation, not in the heat of his own laptop: "Mr. Terry was subjected to extreme provocation by the wholly inappropriate behaviour of Mr. (Anton) Ferdinand."
So much for FA consistency, using the Ferdinand case as a precedent the Terry punishment should have been similar to the one meted out to Rio Ferdinand, yet, Terry received a 4 match ban and a fine more than eight times bigger than Ferdinand’s, which makes the Roberts and Carlisle arguments that Terry got off lightly look ridiculous. The whole affair reeks of double standards and inconsistencies, with Rio in particular having no right to take the moral high ground when you consider he abused Ashley Cole and got off extremely lightly compared to Terry.
Furthermore, the media coverage regarding Terry and Chelsea has been taken to a completely different level and both have been crucified in the media this week. Chelsea have been heavily criticised for not taking the captaincy away from Terry, despite the fact that they hit him a club record fine. I don’t remember the media exerting any such pressure on United in the same way after the conclusion of Rio’s commission. Players appear only too happy to have brushed Ferdinand’s behaviour under the carpet and their have been no threats of personal santions that Terry has been subjected to. The media turned the Anton Ferdinand handshake into a feeding frenzy weeks before the game, yet no one has yet raised the issue of whether Ashley Cole will refuse to shake Rio Ferdinand's hand when the teams meet twice in the next 8 days.
Terry real punishment goes far deeper than his ban he will have to live with the stigma of being called a racist for the rest of his life and has been turned into a footballing pariah, whereas Ferdinand's misdemeanoiur appears to have been accepted by his fellow pros, despite the commission stating:
"A significant number have provided character references for Mr. Terry. They include black players who attest to the fact that, as Chelsea club captain, he welcomes every player to the club and looks after them, irrespective of skin colour, race or ethnicity. It is accepted by everyone involved in the criminal and disciplinary proceedings that Mr. Terry is not a racist."
Racism is an attitude, not a one off word that may or may not have been spoken in anger, only John Terry truly knows if he suffered a moment of weakness or genuinely thought he had been slighted by Anton Ferdinand. Is there any one of us who hasn’t said something in anger that we didn’t later regret? Rio Ferdinand on the other hand insulted Ashley Cole from the comfort of his home and has yet to apologise to Ashley Cole or show any remorse.
His not wearing a T shirt supporting the fight against racism is counter productive and damaging to a worthy cause, especially when his main reason for not doing so is basically flawed. Rio didn’t complain about his lenient penalty from the FA so how can he justify a stance that he is protesting against the FA for giving John Terry a far more severe penalty under the same charge and the same mitigating circumstances.
Furthermore kick it out is an organisation, which is independent from the FA, (although they do partly fund them) so why penalise them if your beef is with the FA. If Terry was guilty (and only he can answer that question), then I have no problem at all with the FA banning him, my problem is that they set a precedent with the Rio Ferdinand case and the punishment they then handed out to Terry was totally inappropriate when you compare it to the Ferdinand punishment. My problem with Clarke Carlisle and Jason Roberts isn't the principle of their argument, it's the fact that they didn't condemn Rio Ferdinand or the FA for giving him such a lenient punishment, that was the time to complain that the FA weren't taking racism seriously, not after the horse had bolted and undermined their arguement. You can't have it both ways and if they had spoken up after the Ferdinand case I wouldn't have had a problem with their current stance, you could say it’s a case of been there, seen it, but didn't wear the T-shirt.
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