December 21st, 2011
01:09 PM ET

Footballers are TV stars, and should act like it ...

Luis Suarez was banned by the FA for eight matches after racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Luis Suarez was banned by the FA for eight matches after racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

The ruling by the Football Association to ban Liverpool and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez for eight matches and to fine him $63,000 for racial abuse has proved controversial for a number of reasons.

It is the first time the governing body of English football has disciplined a player on such terms, a move that has been welcomed by many in the game as tangible evidence that talk of "kicking racism out of football" has some teeth.

It also poses an interesting debate on the use of language and the meaning of words within context. Many would argue "negrito" – the term aimed by Suarez at Manchester United's black defender Patrice Evra – is tantamount to a nickname in places like Uruguay and carries no racial association in such regions.

Consequently, is it unfair of a European society like England to place the negative connotations associated with a more familiar "n" word on a similarly sounding, but harmless, moniker?

How much does the location and the audience dictate the definition of the word and indeed the offence? Liverpool, one of the most successful soccer clubs in the world, maintain it should be impossible to cause offence if only Evra heard the word in question. It was considerations like these that made the case so technical and in need of time-consuming assessment.

The fact the news of the 24-year-old striker's disciplining was followed swiftly by England captain John Terry being charged for allegedly using racist language, a criminal offence in Britain, means racism in football is once again making headlines.

Terry has always vehemently denied the allegations. The London-born defender issued this statement: "I am disappointed with the decision to charge me and hope to be given the chance to clear my name as quickly as possible," a sentiment he is sure to push on his day in court on February 1. Either way there will be scratching of heads in the hierarchy of the English game as to how one of the land's most respected players could find himself in such a situation.

The crux of the matter remains, however, that theoretical arguments on applying the letter of the law misses the more serious overarching point: football is no longer just a game.

The sport of soccer is the most popular sport on the planet by a long margin with nearly every region of the world displaying passion for the beautiful game. The broadcasting of live matches holds a captive global audience unlike any other form of entertainment.

The only event that can match the pulling power of the World Cup is the Olympic Games, and that comes only once every four years; football is played year round, week in, week out.

Footballers are the superstars of this drama and like any in-demand entertainer are paid handsomely for their talents. However, unlike other well-paid entertainers, too many footballers seem ignorant to the power of the stage they ply their trade on.

A football pitch used for the English Premier League and the European Champions League is not the same as a pitch at a local park; it is a television set that is broadcast to millions of viewers around the world.

Whether it's racist abuse, foul language or berating referees, is it really too much to ask that footballers comprehend that playing in front of television cameras demands behaviour that is acceptable for family viewing? A simple rationale maybe, but one which, if applied, would see the end of such offences.

There has also been an interesting line followed by both Andre Villas Boas, Terry's manager at Chelsea, and Kenny Dalglish, Suarez's boss at Liverpool, in their unwavering support of their players. Surely there comes a point where the coaches should say racism is not welcome at either club and if the players were to be found guilty or to lose their appeal (in Suarez's case) they will be subject to internal disciplinary action?

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soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. James Jackson

    One man's word against another's No evidence it was meant as a racist remark Where is the proof one word if used was meant to be racist as it can be used to your best friend. Evra says it was used more than 10 times Why then did he not report it to the Ref after about 5 times. Evra sounds like a trouble maker as he has a history of playing the race card.
    What has happened to innocent until proven guilty. Where is the proof?

    December 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  2. John44r

    You never actually got to the point. Negrito may well be as acceptable in Uruguay now as golliwog was in England 40 years ago with its cute little badges and marketing campaign for jam. But Suavez wasn't using the term for any reason other than to wind up Evra. As such it was racist, and that doesn't mean he is himself a racist, just that he used a racist term to wind up an opponent. He knew what he was doing and was guilty as charged. Simple enough to see that, isn't it? 8 weeks is the FA's joke response...either they do nothing, or they hammer top players to make a precedent, which is equally clearly unfair.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  3. Mike Arms

    Whether it's racist abuse, foul language or berating referees, is it really too much to ask that footballers comprehend that playing in front of television cameras demands behaviour that is acceptable for family viewing? A simple rationale maybe, but one which, if applied, would see the end of such offences.

    I totally agree but are referees going to send off players every time they hear an insult or a swear word? Every match would be abandoned by half time.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  4. Tim Smith

    I found the ban shocking.
    I think it was done for political reasons and the media has used the term 'sending a message' which implies there were other reasons for the punishment.
    Suarez is also mixed race. So what happens there? He is self hating?

    Ridiculous decision.

    December 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  5. Flavio

    The news post to say the lease is misleading... looks like you are assuming that Suarez is guilty of the accusation. First of all I don't think this ever happened, and besides there are accounts that before Suarez answering to Evra, he was called "sudaka" by the Frenchman, an offensive term towards South-Americans. So, who is the racist here?

    December 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  6. Sachiko

    In Japan EPL is very popular as much as domestic league, many Japanese football fans watch Premier league matches every week and we're hoping someday our countryman will play in EPL but I'm a bit worried how European people think of Asian and my thoughts are even to Japanese players now playing in other European league, Bundesliga, Serie A, etc. Actually a Japanese goalkeeper playing in Belgium was jeered by local fans about Fukushima disaster. Of course no racism allegation in Serie A or Bundes YET and I (want to) believe most EPL players have respect to overseas but sometimes it's hard to put European situation into perspective from Far East therefore Suarez and Terry, two cases have jeopardy to cement the stereotype.

    December 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  7. BARCA2012

    As explained in the report, in latin american countries the words negrito, morenito, blanquito, rubio, have no negative racial connotation. Unfortunately, in the UK and US it does; hence, he should refrain from using it in the stadiums he plays.

    December 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  8. coder

    no more than the politicians or job creators...
    we are all subjugated humans
    hoping that our masters are kind enough

    December 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  9. tomiwa

    suarez deserves the suspsnsion,cos sources made it clear that suuarez made the statement in spanish language translating "black monkey" which was to harsh for him.i guess he will appeal

    December 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  10. Peter Dwyer

    James Jackson, Evra has never previously 'played the race card' so get your facts straight you silly sausage, on the 2 other occasions racist accusations have been made related to Evra, the 1st regarding the Finnan case was actually made by two deaf supporters who lip read Finnan racially abusing Evra, Evra never made any complaint so it was dropped, the second incident involving the Chelsea groundsmen again was not made by Evra, it was actually reported by two of United's coaches Mike Phelan being one of them and the goalkeeper coach the other, again Evra when asked said he never heard any racial remark being directed towards him. So wind your neck in and before you decide to comment next time, do your homework!

    December 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  11. Chris Lindley

    James Jackson – when has Evra used 'the race card?'

    December 21, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  12. ricardoelherald

    Nothing is personal, no insult is really meant. It may be different than playing in the park, but it is still the same sport. So stop being a cry baby about it, that is the passion of the game and if you are too delicate then you better change the channel and start watching the NFL

    December 21, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  13. Saleh

    Simply Well done FA......Right decision

    December 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  14. Saleh

    way forward to stop idiocy

    December 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Reply
  15. KevinT

    The argument that Suarez used the 'term' as some sort of affable nickname is as ridiculous as it can ever get. Seriously? Couldn't Suarez have simply said 'Hey, Evra...? I mean, the guy knows Evra's name. How about 'Hey, dude....' or 'Look here, mister..., or simply nudge the guy.

    An 8 match ban is a welcome beginning. Hopefully, the fine can be increased to a couple of months in the future.

    December 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  16. American Football THE REAL MAN"S GAME

    You have insulted the National Football League.... You have insulted people of color around the world... and you insulted me!!!! All of you sissies who run around a prissy field with your red and yellow cards wirthing in pain every time you get kicked need to get your $ss kicked by the REAL MEN Canadian, AMERICAN, or European Football players!!!!

    Here, you don't have anyone calling another names using or playing a race card ( if you do there's a 6'8", 320 lb. fully muscled lineman targeting you at close range). Even your referees are real men not "lilies of the field" prancing along blow your lady-like whistles.

    So do yourself a favor: get knocked on your $ss by a Real MAN coming at you full tilt while you are doing the same, then just maybe you'll be qualified to say something that makes sense.

    I've played American football in high school and college. It is not for lightweights... you really understand how to play through pain. I also played RUGBY which is very similar to American Football and the pain.

    You treat people of Color like they're your servants are slaves then you say,"I'm not a racist!!!!" But you don't want them living next to you. You're quick to blame the other person as the racist person when it is you!!!! As a MAN OF COLOR, a former American Football player, and Rugby player, all of you White-skinned wanna be players are crackers!!! Now play that Card!!!! 🙁

    You people always mock what you don't understand.

    December 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  17. astonlad

    Is Terry guilty of racism? Only two people – he and Anton Ferdinand – know that for sure.

    Is he guilty of being a violent player with a nasty habit of grabbing other team's players by their necks? Hundreds of millions of sports fans worldwide know the answer to that is 'yes'.

    December 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  18. raul aguilar

    Latinos don´t see race the same way as Africans or white Europeans do. Black Latinos know it well. They even marry between races and don´t care what color their children end up being. Inside the same family there are brothers and sisters whit the same facial and physical looks, but one is white, blond, blue eyed and the other as curly and dark as chocolate. So, even your own dad and mom can call you "my negro" and you take it as love expression. Tell Evra to stop behaving like a whimp. My sympathy goes to Suarez and to the good British white player, John Terry.

    December 21, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Reply

    This is such a puerile argument, In such a competitive game with rivalry you are bringing in factor of words and their meanings to a specific location? Are you stupid? This same nonsense is what made Zidane headbutt Materazzi. Now the football body better resolves this immaturity or soon all racial abused players should practice instant justice.

    December 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Reply
  20. Michael


    Wonder how many of the people who left these comments are black? Coz if you are black ( or any race other than Caucasian) and have ever lived in Europe then i don't think you would make any of the above comments!

    Not saying anything about whether Suarez was guilty or not....but i can surely tell you that if you ever called me "negrita" you would have a war on your hands! That is unless you are my wife!

    December 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  21. Jeff

    Political correctness at its best. What Terry is alleged to have said was bad enough, why should the fact that he stuck black in the middle of it make it a criminal matter? In fact, I'm pretty sure out of the three words, black is probably the only one I could type out without using *'s. Why is he being charged in a criminal court when Suarez isn't even looked at by the police?

    December 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  22. Andrei Memphis

    Some interesting comments here. Suarez and Evra are both antagonistic players – just look at their behaviour during the last World Cup (Evra and the French revolt, and Surez and his oh-so-sporting handball to knock Ghana out).

    Meanwhile, I would dispute the statement in the article that asks how John Terry "one of the land's most respected players could find himself in such a situation.". His poor behaviour off-the-field is well known

    December 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  23. Joe Murphy

    Karma Suarez . Remember World Cup 2010 in South Africa, semi-final against Ghana. Disgraceful cheating behaviour.

    December 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  24. Black Briton

    The authors argument or insinuation of a controversial decision by the FA is belittling the facts.

    Calling a fellow footballer the "N" word of any kind during a competitive game is not only calculated but provocative. There are a million other words he could have chosen, but the particular "N" word was deployed to enrage and humiliate. This wasn't a Literature class trying to establish various onomatopia variants. It was a calculated attilary aimed at undermining and humiliating the enemy. This author must be a very devious fellow. He knows the scores, but would rather play on our intelligence.

    December 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  25. WorldCup2010

    When you think of Luis Suarez, never forget the kind of character he demonstrated in the 2010 World Cup against Ghana. Not only blatantly hand balling to stop Ghana's deserved goal, but actually celebrated on the field afterwards like it was an earned win. That's Luis Suarez, his legacy.

    December 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  26. Darrold

    Since I can remember being in sports, head games have always been used. From little leagues to college up through professional sports. Words have been used to take a play off of their game. If a person is playing a professional sport, they should be very aware of this. But the player using this tactic should be prepared to suffer the consequences of their actions. Professional atheletes have heard these words since they started playing what ever sport.

    December 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  27. Ako Amadi

    "Negrito" is a word of endearment in South America? and used by a forward for a defender marking him? when will we be a bit more intelligent?

    December 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  28. american

    soccer sucks

    December 22, 2011 at 1:19 am | Reply
  29. Jose

    I totally agree with Mr J.Jackson, Evra likely a real trouble maker. If I were him, I would never have let anybody insult me 2 times. Why he had to tolerate 10 times and spent so much time before reporting it?

    December 22, 2011 at 2:08 am | Reply
  30. Alex in NJ

    If CNN is all of the sudden going to start reporting on real Football, why don't you report the good along with the bad. The only time you ever mention Football is when it's something race related. Either treat Football fairly, or leave it alone. Then again, asking CNN to be objective is obviously far too much to ask. We already know that from your political "reporting."

    December 22, 2011 at 2:26 am | Reply
  31. EveNewtonJobs

    One has to assume that most of those on here defending the indefensible in Suarez are Liverpool fans. No surprise there at all knowing what most people know about that club.
    The problem with this is that racism exists in the game and until we take off the colors of the teams we support and see this as a bigger issue the whole thing is doomed.

    December 22, 2011 at 3:05 am | Reply
  32. Sdenver

    Negrito has absolutely ZERO racial connotation, i know this is hard to believe for some of you but it's true. It is completely a literal word –

    Would he then still face this ridiculous ban? The UK political correctness is off the chains. This isn't a tea-party, this is football.

    December 22, 2011 at 3:14 am | Reply
  33. Health Planner

    In Latin America, "negrito" is a very common word with friendly connotations. You are not going to use it to insult somebody. Ruling is ludicrous.

    December 22, 2011 at 3:59 am | Reply
  34. Fuad Bari

    This shows that even the english football governing is jealous of Liverpool. Oh God, Everybody started hating LIVERPOOL WHY?

    December 22, 2011 at 5:33 am | Reply
  35. Fuad Bari

    Karma Suarez should learn a lesson NOW! He should realize he is letting his club down by means of bad and cruel discipline. Kenny Dalglish explain to Suarez the meaning of good behaviour and morality, before it is too late.

    December 22, 2011 at 5:38 am | Reply
  36. Ernest

    This is can you banned luis or anyperson for 8 solid fa should reduce it to 1.

    December 22, 2011 at 5:39 am | Reply
  37. kyo hi

    Socer is a sports which people all over the world can equally enjoy playing and watching, so we think much of moral and rule. players too.

    December 22, 2011 at 6:04 am | Reply
  38. Birra moretti

    We should realy get RACISM outta all kinda sports, not only on soccer, sports lovers should act maturedly!

    December 22, 2011 at 6:18 am | Reply
  39. RaisedRight

    The best way to stop racism learned in racist households is to attach a steep fine or sanction like:
    a minimum "8-Month Suspension" No Play ==> No Pay
    Which will teach their racist parents, family, friends, and fans to stop teaching bigotry to their children.. You teach a child to eat garbage and behave like one, that's what he'll do when he grows up...
    Latin American and Spanish speaking countries are notoriously racist against blacks... I've met many in the corporate world whom think that way..its even worse and more blatant with illiterate ones..

    December 22, 2011 at 6:44 am | Reply
  40. Pitt

    Ok you are saying that in latino America it is ok to say negrito. In the case of Suarez, was he using the word to say "Evra, you are a good guy". No He was unsulting the man so stop. The reason why suarez use this word was to hurt Evra feeling

    December 22, 2011 at 9:58 am | Reply
  41. Leonarta

    How can suarez be racist when he is 1/4 black? I accept the fact that negrito might be acceptable in uruguay but not in england btu this is just a case of misunderstanding and an apology from suarez is enough. In my eyes suarez is not racist and doesnt have any intention and doesnt deserved to get banned esp for 8 games which is very long.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Reply
  42. alehandro

    The author's line is a familiar one - because footballers are "rich" in terms of earnings and fame they should be held to a higher standard than society as a whole because they're role models. Never mind that many of them are blue-collar guys with only a rudimentary education, somehow they're expected to become paragons of moral virtue just because they can kick a ball. Well, I don't buy it. Racism is a societal problem and football cannot solve it alone nor should it be expected to do so. What it can do is punish the offenders within the context of the game, and that's what Suarez received – a punishment that fit his crime, which was offensive unsportsmanlike behavior. The "defense" that negrito is not offensive in Uruguay is nonsensical. The abuse didn't occur in Uruguay it occurred in England, a different country with different rules and standards of behavior which he signed up for when he moved there. Besides, as an experienced South American export to Europe I believe Suarez knew his comments would be antagonstic and simply took a chance in the hope of gaining an unfair advantage by riling Evra. I'm not saying he's a racist but his words definitely were, and having rolled the dice and lost I think he should man up and take his licks without appealing. And I'd also like to say that it doesn't do Liverpool's image any good to be backing him so strongly. His words were racist whether intentionally or not, and a club purporting have zero tolerance for racism should acknowledge that he crossed the line, accept the punishment and move on instead of defending the indefensible purely for self-interest.

    December 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  43. GGMU

    based on the the last paragraph, clear bias on whether Terry is guilty or not. Terry is not guilty: I stand with AVB chelsea and all blues supporters on this matter!!!

    December 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  44. james

    I honestly love suarez as a player, but its evident dat he didn't say d word negrito to endear himself to evra. A point should always be made whenever possible dat when caught, d punishment would fit d crime. And the criteria is applicable to JT. It is also about time d managers maintained a diplomatic silence. Rather than make comments like "moral win"

    December 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  45. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Footballers are human and like all of us are fragile. They need to be encouraged to put on their best behavior on and off the court.

    For inner calm and composure yoga asanas and meditation could be included in their daily training routine.

    Vipassana techniques of sweeping off the gross, subtle and blank sensations from the top of the head to the tip of the toe and from the tip of the toe to the top of the head could also come handy for the overall toning up of the system.

    Wishing our footballers all the very best in the display of their sublime talents.

    December 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  46. Johnnie99

    TV stars? Have you even heard most of them try to string a sentence together? "Ooh, arrr ... it;s agame of two 'alves, y'know, mate ...."

    December 28, 2011 at 8:58 am | Reply
  47. AC Milan Players

    Wow this is really surprising incidents. Banning a footballers for being a racist sounds unusual. The thing is the decision is ironic. This is because on the part of Suarez he has a black descent too. I think the decision needs to have more reasonable grounds.

    July 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Reply

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