Jason Roberts would shake hand of John Terry

 

Reading striker Jason Roberts would shake John Terry's hand, but raised eyebrows yesterday by refusing to say whether he thought the Chelsea skipper was a racist.

Roberts was one of a number of players who last week boycotted Kick It Out's annual initiative of wearing anti-racism T-shirts to highlight their efforts to rid the game of the problem.

The 34-year-old, who is a Kick It Out ambassador, says the organisation, and football authorities, are simply not doing enough to clamp down on the issue, which has reared its head again several times recently.

Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches last season and Terry has recently received a four-match suspension for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, although the former England defender was cleared of a similar charge in a criminal court this summer.

Ferdinand refused to shake Terry's hand when the two met in the latest west London derby, but Roberts said he would never do such a thing.

"I would, yeah," Roberts said when asked whether he would shake Terry's hand.

If that was seen as a diplomatic move to try to reach out to Terry, what followed was far less forthcoming.

When asked whether he thought the 31-year-old was a racist, the straight-faced Roberts replied: "I would shake his hand, definitely."

When the question was asked again, the Granada-born forward again refused to answer it directly and merely repeated the words: "I would shake his hand."

Former England striker Les Ferdinand - cousin of Anton and Rio - believes the Football Association let down "every black person who is interested in football" by only banning Terry for four games.

"The FA have let a lot of black people down," he told BBC Radio Five. "Well, every black person who is interested in football."

The 45-year-old continued: "I've wrestled with 'is John Terry a racist?' What John Terry did was make a racist comment - and you have to suffer the consequences of that.

"If you drink and get your in car and get caught by the police you have to suffer the consequences of that. Whatever it may be.

"It may be the first time, but if you get caught you have to suffer the consequences of that.

"By the FA banning Suarez for eight games... you have to suffer the consequences of your actions."

Kick It Out director Roisin Wood, meanwhile, would welcome talks with any high-profile footballers about the best way to maximise their resources.

In the statement they released on Wednesday night, the Ferdinand brothers - while praising its previous work - called on Kick it Out to make itself "more relevant".

As an organisation with only six full-time members of staff, Kick It Out are already fully stretched.

But rather than recoil at the Ferdinands' stance, Wood embraces it.

"I would always welcome engagement with any high-profile players," she said. "They are crucial to us moving the campaign forward.

"We don't feel the way we are funded does compromise who we are.

"But there obviously is a perception out there that it might do and to be able to have high-profile players raise this debate and discuss it with them would be great for us."

PA

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