Why John Terry’s Trial for Racism Was a Farce
John Terry is a professional soccer player, former captain of England and captain of Chelsea who won this year’s European Champions League. He was accused of racially abusing another player in a Premier League game last year.
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This was a complicated story about a player who tends to divide soccer fans – they love him or loathe him. Naturally a lot depends on which team you support, Chelsea fans idolise Terry, calling him “Our Captain, Leader and Legend.” Supporters of Manchester United or Liverpool will probably hate him.
But neutral fans are split too. Terry is an uncomplicated player, a hard, tough defender who also scores important goals – and everyone agrees he is a natural leader. Off the pitch he has been involved in various brawls and notoriously, he was alleged to have had an affair with a team mate’s partner. This lost him the England captaincy, although he did get it back.
Terry was caught up in a vicious argument with Anton Ferdinand, a central defender in the Queens Park Rangers team. This deteriorated during the game and finally there was a shouting match between the two with much swearing, use of the “F” and “C” word – and crucially – Terry calling Ferdinand a “Black C***.”
Terry does not deny using those words, they were caught on a YouTube clip that quickly went viral. But he says there was a question mark at the end of them. He claims he was simply repeating, sarcastically, what Ferdinand said he, Terry, had called him.
This is the heart of the case. To me it seems totally unlikely that Terry would call any player a “Black C***.” He is the captain of a mixed race team and some of his closest allies and friends in the Chelsea side are Black. They are also very strong characters, Didier Drogba, former captain of the African Ivory Coast side, and Ashley Cole, the England player – to name just two.
Neither Drogba or Cole would be associated with Terry in any way if he was racist. He would not have been named captain of a mixed race English national soccer team if he was racist.
Terry’s case was that he has been called many things in his career – but racist was not one he was prepared to accept in any way. He said he was a prominent supporter of African charities run by Drogba, had played in mixed race teams all his life, and would not condone racism of any kind.
This was why he had repeated, in a questioning way, what he believed Ferdinand said he’d called him.
The magistrate who heard the case said it was possible that this is what happened and because there was a doubt about the way Terry had used the words – the only possible verdict was not guilty.
The trial showed the English game in a very bad light, revealing that foul, obscene language is routinely used on the pitch. No gentlemen, sports heroes or role models there.
But John Terry a racist? I don’t believe that.