PFA chairman and Kick It Out ambassador Clarke Carlisle hopes the decision of some players not to wear anti-racism t-shirts will prompt discussions rather than punishments.
Several players, including Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton, who plays for QPR, declined to wear the Kick It Out t-shirts while warming up for their respective Barclays Premier League matches, apparently unhappy with what they consider a lack of progress.
Rio Ferdinand's decision brought strong criticism from United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who promised the player would be "dealt with". On Friday, Ferguson had publicly criticised Jason Roberts' stated intention to snub the t-shirt and promised all of his players would wear them.
"Sir Alex Ferguson is trying to reaffirm his unwavering support of the Kick It Out campaign and that's fantastic," Carlisle told Press Association Sport. "But this should not be seen as player versus club or dissension from a player against their employer.
"This is about a group of players and some wider issues that transcend that relationship.
"We would not want to see Rio Ferdinand punished. As I said of the handshake saga, you cannot coerce any man against his will and to do so would be the complete opposite of what the campaign is for.
"(Reading manager) Brian McDermott and (Newcastle manager) Alan Pardew said they had good conversations with their players to understand why (they did not wear the t-shirt) and they respect them in that.
"Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out in his own interview he did not know why Jason Roberts or any other player would not want to wear the t-shirt, so I hope that conversation takes place in the next couple of days."
Anton Ferdinand was the victim of racial abuse from Chelsea skipper John Terry in a league match last October, with Terry accepting a four-match suspension and £220,000 fine relating to the incident earlier this week.
The t-shirt campaign came days after ugly scenes in Serbia where Danny Rose was sent off at the end of an England Under-21 match during which he complained of racist abuse from the crowd.
And Northumbria Police said they were investigating one report of racist abuse from a supporter during the 1-1 draw between Sunderland and Newcastle at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
Carlisle said he had spoken to a number of the players who chose not to wear the t-shirt, and had listened to their concerns.
"This is a group of players who are trying to make a statement," he said. "This is not a problem with Kick It Out per se, though they would like Kick It Out to be more vocal and authoritative.
"But the main point they would like to make is about the way governing bodies have approached issues over the past 12-18 months, the way they have investigated them and the expediency of those investigations, and how weak the sanctions were at the end of them.
"This is not just the FA, it's UEFA and FIFA and it ties in with other issues the players want their union to address. This was their opportunity to make that stand."
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