WE'RE coming a little late to the whole Suarez-racism-eight match ban debate here at The Week in Sport, but with Liverpool now accepting the ban, yet refusing to accept that Suarez did anything wrong, it feels like an appropriate time to draw some conclusions from the whole affair.
First don't make rash judgements. When the initial decision was made I felt, like a lot of Liverpool fans felt, that it was more than a little harsh that Suarez would be banned simply on the basis of his accuser's word, but after the FA released its full judgement this week that initial reaction is probably in need of some revision. The idea that you can be found guilty of an offence simply on the word of your accuser is rightly repugnant – it reeks of the Mccarthyite 1950s – but as the FA report makes clear Suarez did himself no favours in his testimony.
He admits to using the word "negro" and while, okay, there are cultural differences beteen South America and Europe, a certain amount of the defence of the Uraguian on that basis is self-serving.
Second, don't look towards fans or teammates or managers for a rational assessment of the ills of a team mate. Sport invariably breeds a siege mentality. An 'us against the rest' mentality develops because, well, essentially, that's what sport is about. So when Liverpool release a statement or Kenny Dalglish says something in defence
of Suarez in a press conference or the Liverpool players don a t-shirt in defence of their team mate it doesn't mean very much. They're doing what they have to do. What they have to be seen to do. Supporting their man.
Unfortunately in this case it put them in the invidious position of seeming – emphasis on seeming – to be soft on racism.
They're not, at least we hope they're not, soft on racism. They've simply done what's expected of them. If the boot was on the other foot would Dalgish's fellow Glaswegian Alex Ferguson act any differently? So while Paul Mcgrath, for example, is well within his rights to criticise Liverpool and Dalgish, what they say in defence of one of their own shouldn't be taken with any degree of seriousness.
It was the same with Kerry people's various mental contortions in their numerous defences of Paul Galvin. Blind loyalty.
The final lesson to draw from it is the most obvious: racism of any description, no matter the intent of the originator, is unacceptable.