November 18, 2011 Leave a comment
In light of the news that Suarez was charged for using racist language against Evra, people have been divided on whether Suarez intended to cause offence to Evra, and whether Suarez is a racist. Most Liverpool fans that I know have said that because Suarez did not mean to cause offence, and because the word he allegedly used is not taboo in his home country, he should be forgiven. The other opinion is that he did use racist language and thus should be punished. Gus Poyet came out and defended Suarez saying that he was anything but a racist and that such usage was acceptable in Uruguay, and Liverpool fans are using Javier Hernandez’s previous usage of the word to talk about one of his teammates while he was in Mexico to further support the point.
However, this is the English Premier League, and just like foreign workers and immigrants are expected to live by English law, so too are footballers. You cannot use ignorance of the law as an excuse, or the fact that things are different in your home country. The question that should be asked is not whether Suarez is racist or whether he meant it – even if Suarez did, in the heat of the moment, say something extremely racist, it would be not clear-cut whether he is. Some people go to any lengths to wind up the opposition, and some feel that since racism is more offensive to some, it is an easy route. Suarez’s intentions may have been good, too. After all, Javier Hernandez, in praise of his Mexican teammate, used the same word Suarez is alleged to have used. However, that too, is not the issue.
The issue is not whether Suarez is a racist, or whether he intended to cause offence to Evra; it is where we draw the line in the Premier League as far as racism goes. The FA has to decide whether Suarez’s alleged use of ‘negrito’ is within or outside the boundaries of what is acceptable. If Suarez is not punished for his transgression, it could open up a can of worms regarding the treatment of racial issues in the Premier League. And what does this say about where footballers are in society? We would not tolerate such language in daily life, so why should footballers be exempt from it?
Lastly, while I feel Suarez should be punished, I feel the FA also need to take into consideration the intention behind the language. The maximum punishment for racial abuse is six games, and if it is shown that Suarez did not use the language in an abusive manner, or in a manner intended to cause offence, then he should not face a six-match ban. That way, the FA will have done their job well by both punishing use of racist language, and understanding the context it was in.