Additionally, all papers have cited the 2003 case of Sheffield United’s John Mackie’s suspension for racially abusing a Reading player. Typically the media are seeking to put the two cases in the (ahem) correct perspective by assuring the FA that they needn’t feel the need to be as lenient with Suarez as they were with Mackie (who got a 6 match ban suspended to just 2 games). Why ? – because the honourable Mackie had fessed up to his slur straight after the match in question, unlike the shifty Suarez who still has the cheek to deny doing something that there is no evidence of him having actually done.
However, as the Liverpool Echo noted on February 11th this year :
Less well publicised is Suarez’s charity work which took up much of his spare time in South Africa.
“I care about social inequality,” he said. “Whenever I can I love being active part of organisations that promote solidarity projects.
“Football has got this tremendous power of joining people, without any skin, religion and social discrimination.”
So, there is also a cuddlier Suarez who does some charity work and has gone out of his way to declare a commitment to fighting prejudice. Not proof positive of innocence but equally not the hallmarks of a casual racist. Indeed Suarez carries no baggage of this kind with him. He has played in multi-cultural leagues for many years, and has not come close to being accused of being a racist before. His slate, in this respect, is very clean.
What of Evra’s credibility then? He may be a stand up guy who looks out for even more orphans and charities than Suarez could ever dream of, but there are some central facts surrounding this case that don’t illuminate Evra well.
The ’10 times’ allegation is a key one. It is so plainly a distortion that it must clearly impact on Evra’s overall credibility and is especially light-weight in the wake of leaks concerning the nature of the supposedly offensive term that Suarez may have used.
Admissible or not Evra has had his credibility called into question in the recent past in a relatable incident. He vouched for a Manchester United colleague’s view that a Chelsea groundsman had uttered a racist epithet in his direction in a post match scuffle at Stamford Bridge in 2008.
Evra protested his innocence in the petty violence that ensued, insisting he ‘didn’t touch anybody’ when photographic evidence quite clearly suggested otherwise. Sam Bethell, the Chelsea employee, it was alleged, had called Evra a ‘****ing immigrant’. The FA subsequently banned Evra for 4 matches, exonerated Bethel, and noted that Evra’s evidence was simply not believable. This incident does not a serial false accuser make, but it does not enhance Evra’s standing on the stand.
The varying nuances of the word negrito, though, could become fundamental to this dispute. A CNN website piece from 17th November carries this observation from U.S. radio talk show host Fernando Espuelas, who originally hails from the Uruguay :
“It’s not a slur whatsoever,” said Espuelas, whose show often addresses racism in the Latino community. “It’s a term of endearment. You definitely would not use that if you were angry. It would sound ridiculous.”