Chelsea and John Terry make a mockery of the fight to beat racism
Carefully choreographed, sorry apology from club and player should fool no one
There may come a time when we look back upon people like John Terry as old-school remnants of football's bad old days. It is a fact that there are some senior people at the Premier League who feel that way.
But for now we are stuck with an individual who actually believes that saying "f*****g black c**t" can pass as an innocent mistake and who thinks that a 155-word statement issued through his management company, and containing no direct word of apology to Anton Ferdinand, can be passed off as an act of contrition.
No one is fooled. This was the week of Club England's fabled new 16-page code of conduct, issued with fanfare and colourful details of all the accompanying artwork, insisting amid regulations on video games, headphones and Twitter that players must reject and oppose (my italics) all forms of discrimination. Forget all that. Dismiss all hope of a Terry apology to those caught up in the storm of his creating, or something for those at the bottom end of football, trying to set children on a different kind of track.
We have been treated to something like the utterance a man chewing on glass – or would have been if Terry had felt able to step out, like a man, from behind the pre-prepared statement and utter anything this with his own mouth.
What we witnessed yesterday was not a million miles away from Luis Suarez who, naming no names back on 4 January, "said" of the term "negro" that "if this word offends anyone then I want to apologise". This is no more than we should expect from Terry, or from some of those whose company he keeps, such as Ashley Cole, who utters an obscene tweet about the Football Association's decision to convict, and then is cheerily called upon by Roy Hodgson to represent the nation, seven days later.
It is Chelsea, though, who emerge most miserably and most depressingly from yesterday's choreographed announcements. Chelsea – a club who would like you to think they seem modern and who carry the innovative, cutting-edge brand name of Samsung on their shirts.
Flick through the club's website some time and you will find the headline "Fighting Racism" just a couple of clicks away. "Chelsea Football Club practises a zero tolerance policy towards racism at Stamford Bridge and takes a leading role in all the major anti-racist campaigns," the section vaunts. Zero? As we venture into the Kick it Out campaign's weeks of action, which begin this weekend, the club merely perpetuated the façade of the Terry "apology" with their limp declaration of appreciation and support following "John's full apology for the language he used … not acceptable … below the standards expected of John…." Blah blah blah. And how bad was bad? Not bad enough to tell the world how their player was to be punished – as if any fine could actually make a dent his fortune. Just a measure of it would tell us that Chelsea are sincere about regaining the trust which deserted them when the "materially defective" evidence of their club secretary, Dave Barnard, was revealed by the FA's commission report a few weeks back. Nothing. The same nothing that Liverpool gave us earlier this year when the fury of their American proprietors and unflattering headlines in the New York Times finally forced some serious action.
The irony of all this is that Kick it Out will tell you that, when you take Terry and Cole out of the equation, Chelsea have actually been one of its most proactive supporters over the years. They needn't bother this weekend, as the domestic football pantomime starts up again, with England's cries of outrage over the Serbs' conduct perhaps still loud enough to drown out the indignation many people will feel for Terry, Chelsea and their empty contrition.
The only silver lining is that the interminable criminal and disciplinary processes mean that Terry's period of suspension will incorporate tomorrow's match with Tottenham Hotspur and next weekend's with Manchester United, among others. That means we will not be treated to the spectacle of him running on to a football pitch in a Kick it Out T-shirt. That hypocrisy really would be too much to bear.
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