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Liverpool foolishly backed Suarez
The FA released a damning 115-page report today that left little doubt Liverpool’s Luis Suarez racially abused Patrice Evra this past October. The commission report rejected Suarez’ claim that he had been misinterpreted on cultural grounds and said that the Uruguayan had “damaged the image of English football around the world.”
The release of the report on New Year’s Eve dashes what might have been a fine end to the year for Liverpool. The Reds beat Newcastle in convincing fashion on Friday, getting a goal from captain Steven Gerrard as he continues his return from an ankle infection. They sit in a very respectable sixth place and have genuine hopes of gaining a slot in next season’s Champions League.
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Instead, the club has entered a crisis, and not only because of one player’s actions.
Liverpool’s management and fans forcefully and foolishly backed Suarez in the case. They now have to live with the results. Liverpool is undeniably one of the proudest and greatest teams in the world. But this was conduct unbecoming to them. It will be interesting to see if they show the same class and pride by apologizing for their errors as they did in standing up for one of their players.
The commission report makes for uncomfortable reading. Suarez repeatedly called Evra a “negro,” in such a way that it was, in their words “significantly more serious than a one-off ... and amounts to an aggravating factor.”
According to the report, Suarez told Evra “I don’t speak to blacks,” and when Evra asked why the forward had kicked him, it was “because you are black.” Suarez then called Evra a “negro” three further times. The report also questioned Suarez’ veracity, stopping just short of calling him a liar.
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While Evra was called “a credible witness,” who “gave his evidence in a calm, composed and clear way,” Suarez’s testimony was “unreliable in relation to matters of critical importance.”
Suarez’ argument that he had attempted to defuse the situation was called “inconsistent with the video evidence.” Moreover: “[Suarez’ testimony] was unsustainable and simply incredible given that the players were engaged in an acrimonious argument. That this was put forward by Mr. Suarez was surprising and seriously undermined the reliability of his evidence on other matters.”
It is difficult to see how or why Liverpool is appealing this decision. Suarez was fined £40,000 and banned for eight games, and on the face of it, he seems to have no basis for a counter-argument. Indeed, the FA said that similar future transgressions would lead to a lifetime ban. And yet, Liverpool and Suarez are appealing, making the flimsy argument that in his culture, such words are appropriate.
Let’s leave aside the fact that the commission went out of its way to retain a linguistic and cultural expert to examine that contention — and rejected it. Let’s instead remember that Suarez is not playing in Uruguay but in England. If you work in another country, you’d best learn quickly what is acceptable and what is not. Suarez is not a child, he’s a grown man, and his defense appears simply laughable.
Suarez is also not a choirboy. He served a seven-game ban in Holland for biting an opponent while he was with Ajax; was involved in an infamous and deliberate handball incident at the World Cup against Ghana; and has just served a one-game suspension for flipping off Fulham’s fans.
This is clearly not a one-off incident. It is a pattern of flagrant and offensive behavior that requires counseling, not coddling. But coddling is what the club has done. It is ill-suited, and Liverpool’s reaction to the whole fiasco has only reinforced the view among some that the team has a persecution complex.
An example: Manager Kenny Dalglish had his team run out wearing T-shirts with Suarez’ picture prior to a midweek game against Wigan 10 days ago. That move was heavily criticized at the time by a number of black athletes in England and violently defended by the club’s partisans and players. Today, it’s clear the critics were correct; Dalglish has to bear the responsibility for a grave mistake. It is nothing less than a stain on what has been a fine career, and he should stand up and accept that he crossed the line.
Even more troubling is the silence of American owner John Henry. It is difficult to believe that the Boston Red Sox would allow any player to remain on its payroll if they were found guilty of the same offenses as Suarez. Shouldn’t they hold the same values with their British holdings? Perhaps the American owners of Liverpool may be hoping folks in the States aren’t paying attention. We are.
Sadly, even a cursory glance at the message boards and Twitter feeds of folks around Liverpool show that the message of today’s report isn’t getting through yet. Some are even arguing that Suarez isn’t a racist — he just made racist statements. Even though the commission took pains to note that this wasn’t a trial over whether or not Suarez is or is not a racist, this is a bit like claiming someone isn’t an arsonist, but that he just happened to burn those houses down. It makes little difference, as all those black athletes across Britain have pointed out.
Only a few fans seem to realize how seriously this is damaging their club. That’s a shame. Liverpool deserves better — and Suarez deserves his punishment.
Jamie Trecker is the senior editor for FOXSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclays Premier League.
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