Luis Suarez has received support from his club and teammates, testifying that he is not racist
Footballers - Positive role models
Show Racism the Red Card works with professional footballers as anti-racism role models for young people - they have an extremely positive impact on young people and help to communicate our anti-racism message. Footballers are role models for young people. In their support of our campaign, they speak out against racism and are consistent in their message to young people: “Always tell a teacher or an adult if you receive racism. It is not something you should ever have to put up with”.
Racism should never be tolerated within football or society. We cannot achieve equality by ignoring racism, equality is something that we must continually strive towards. This is something that football clubs clearly recognise through their ongoing support of anti-racism initiatives, such as the work of Show Racism the Red Card.
We can rightly celebrate the work that has been done to tackle racism within the game. Racist chants that were once common-place in stadia are thankfully something we rarely hear. However, the FA's ruling that Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra demonstrates that racism has not vanished entirely from football.
"Luis Suarez is not racist."
A joint statement by Liverpool's squad says: "We totally support Luis and we want the world to know that. We know he is not racist."
This is something the FA acknowledged in their report as well as Patrice Evra himself. A blog post on Liverpool's website claims that Suarez's "reputation has already been irreparably tarnished by this entire saga and no amount of appealing or apologising will see that change. Despite saying otherwise, the FA have branded Luis Suarez a racist and the reaction in the tabloids has ensured that for the rest of his time in England he will be known as such."
The FA report makes it very clear that this ruling does not brand Suarez as a racist: "...this case is not about whether Mr Suarez is in fact a racist... Rather the question is whether, on 15th October 2011, for whatever reason, Mr Suarez used language and behaviour which was racially offensive. This is an important difference and, we submit, that the Commission will need to take care to ensure that the questions it answers at the end of these proceedings are the narrow questions posed by the charge and not any broader question as to the personal attitude of Mr Suarez."
The behaviour was racist
The issue is the behaviour, not the person. Suarez may not be a racist, but the behaviour was ruled to be racist and needs to be dealt with. We have all had times where we are under pressure or angry and say things that we regret, that doesn’t make them excusable. Even if someone did not deliberately intend to cause harm, this doesn’t affect the outcome.
Show Racism the Red Card agrees entirely with the FA's ruling that: "Mr Suarez is an international footballer of exceptional ability, playing for one of the best-known clubs in the world. His position carries with it a particular degree of responsibility. His conduct amounts to a serious breach of that responsibility. The conduct of Mr Suarez also undermines FA-supported programmes such as the anti-racism "Kick It Out" campaign by suggesting to the young, naive and ignorant that racially offensive language and behaviour is acceptable."
Suarez should recognise that he used racially abusive language (whether this was his intent or not) which caused offence to Evra. We call upon him to apologise.
It is important that we do not become disconnected from the wider impact of this incident, thinking that "What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch." It does not.
Football is the most popular sport in the world and is watched by millions of people. Footballers do not have carte-blanche to abuse each other in whatever ways they see fit. If we allow people to use racist language on the pitch then what is to stop it from spilling over into other aspects of their lives, affecting their opinions and interactions with others?
We have recently published a research document addressing the barriers to tackling racism and promoting race equality. Racism between pupils remains widespread in schools and is a regular fact of life for many pupils. Targeted pupils may become scared, depressed and lacking in self-confidence and this can impact heavily on their progress at school. Pupils on the receiving end of racial harassment may not share their experiences with parents or teachers. They are often wary of reporting their experiences with worries about ‘grassing’, being dismissed or making the situation worse.
Using someone's skin colour or ethnicity as an insult has a deeper effect. It implies that it is negative to be of that background and attacks something which is intrinsic to that person. It is an attack not just on the individual, but on other members of their family, community or group. When high-profile people act in this way it gives licence for others to copy-cat and creates a society where that behaviour is deemed acceptable. If we don't challenge racist language and insults, we are paving the way for some people to go on to commit more serious incidents of hate-crime. People who commit acts of hate crime believe that they are acting on behalf of and with the support of their community; it is up to all of us to demonstrate that this behaviour is unacceptable and not supported.
It is vital that we continue to develop a culture where racism is not acceptable in any guise.