Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Luis Suarez, racist language & punishment

Luis Suarez (c) Ilya Khokhlov
Following Luiz Suarez's punishment by the Football Association (F.A.) for using “insulting words”, which included references to the colour of Patrice Evra, I am going to begin this post by setting out the following quotes and statements on this issue:

Today is a very difficult and painful day for both me and my family.
(Luiz Suarez on Twitter, 20/12/2011)

Very disappointed with today's verdict.

Liverpool Football Club is very surprised and disappointed with the decision of the Football Association Commission to find Luis Suarez guilty of the charges against him...
(Liverpool FC statement, 20/12/2011)

Suarez..told media in Uruguay that he "called him [Evra] something his team-mates at Manchester call him".
(BBC Football post, 20/12/2011)

It is quite an unbelievable statement and a harsh statement. Suarez could be suspended for 20% of the season - it's devastating for Liverpool
(Mark Lawrenson, BBC Football Sport Expert, 20/12/2011)

From what I understand from the likes of Liverpool-kop.com, the word Suarez used to abuse Patrica Evra was “negrita.” BBC Sport's, Tim Vickery, has written a good post on the use of similar words and their context in Uruguayan, and South American, football and culture.

The context of the use of “insulting words” appears to have been key in this judgment. The incident that seems to be relevant, happened when Suaraz and Evra were tussling for a ball towards the bye-line and corner flag.

From the TV cameras, it appears that Suarez was initially upset with Evra for what he thought was a dive. The crowd appear to have agreed and were baying at Evra. The two players can then be seen exchanging words, with both players appearing to be unhappy with each other.

Patrice Evra (c) Gordon Flood
After both players were called to speak to the referee, Suarez put his hand on the top of Evra's head. Evra took offence to this gesture and Suarez said something to him, which again woundd Evra up. Evra was obviously upset, as he was then booked.

Above, Suarez reckons that Evra's team-mates call him something that might be the equivalent of “negrita.” Do they? Does Glen Johnson, the only other black player I know of on Liverpool's first team get called “negrita” in training? If so, do Liverpool FC condone this, and if so, why?

Whilst arguments are made for Suarez on grounds of the cultural differences between English football and Uruguayan football, Suarez has been playing here since January 2011. Prior to this, he played for Ajax Amsterdam from 2007. The cultural differences between Holland and the UK are less wide.

The response to this punishment by Suarez, Liverpool FC and noted pundits, however, is seriously lacking in understanding being a victim of racial abuse. 

Suarez refers to it being a tough day for him, and Liverpool FC and Dalglish are very disappointed. Was it a tough day for Evra too when he was disparaged? Was he disappointed at being slurred by Suarez? Neither Suarez, nor Liverpool FC, have shown any dignity in their reactions to this decision.

Whilst Liverpool FC claim that nobody heard the remarks other than Evra, it does not mean that they did not occur. As noted above, it was very noisy in the area that these words appear to have been uttered. Besides Suarez admitted to Uruguayan media that he had said something. Perhaps he can be brave to tell us what he said to Evra.

As for Lawrenson's statement, it is nothing short of diabolical. Referring to the length of suspension, and the harm that it causes Liverpool FC in their vain quest to reach the dizzying heights of fifth place, it demonstrates what he knows about the harms associated with racial abuse.

More erudite commentary on the F.A.'s punishment comes from the likes of Rueben Hazell and Les Ferdinand, as players who have been on the receiving end of racism in football.

It was only last month that we were up in arms over the racist rant by a woman travelling on a London-Croydon tram. She has since been to court over the incident; Suarez has not. What might be the cultural context of her rant, i.e. the socio-economic reasons as to why she chose to use the awful words that she did, will not be accepted as a defence.

Whilst we regard Premiership footballers, and clubs, as celebrities, and therefore beyond reproach, neither football, nor those within it, are separate to society. Football reaches out to local communities and beyond; it is both in the community and of the community, in which we are all supposedly bound by the same laws, rules and regulations. 

However, like major corporations and other powerful institutions, the FA has special dispensation to punish the social harms caused by their members, whilst ordinary members of the public have to face an inflexible criminal justice system. 

Suarez and Liverpool FC should count themselves lucky.

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1 comment:

  1. Just a quick follow-up note on this story, before I return next week.

    The blog, CrimeTalk, wrote a piece on this story: http://www.crimetalk.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=571:football-political-correctness-suarez-&catid=926:in-brief&Itemid=275.

    I have left a comment, but do not wish to add to what I have written on this matter. Feel free to join in the conversation, given that an Oldham player was abused on Friday night, and given that this is a social, rather than footbal, issue.

    See you next week.